The laws of commercial success or failure are complicated. ‘47 Ronin‘ is a film that failed completely at the box office and is considered one of the biggest losers of the Universal Studios in the current decade, despite of belonging to a popular genre (fantasy action movie) and despite having as lead actor. I actually liked the film, and some of the reasons may be the same that let to its commercial disaster.





47 Ronin‘ is based on an 18th century historical event which took place in a Japan led by the shoguns who decided to close its gates and shores to foreigners and all but cut the ties with the external world. It’s a bloody story of revenge and sacrifice that raises issues of honor, tradition, and respect for authority very close to the essence of the Japanese soul. The story was taken over by oral and written literature and later by cinema, with a romantic intrigue of impossible love being added among other. The approach in telling the story and the perspective taken by the writer or film director tells a lot about the way tradition and the whole era of the shogunate are being perceived. I can understand that Japanese viewers may dislike the Hollywoodization of the story. Script writer and film director have taken the Japanese story into the territory of fantasy action movies. Feudal Japan is in their vision a land populated by spirits of the forest, dragons and witches. It’s pure entertainment, and this is the main angle this film needs to be judged from.


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I found the result more than satisfying in the limits of its genre. The film is spoken in English, but I guess it would have had no chances otherwise in the American cinema theaters. The majority of the acting team is composed of Japanese actors, some of them well-known in Hollywood and they all do a fine job: is the noble commander of the samurais revenging their murdered and dishonored master, represents the dark side oponent, gathers beauty and delicacy for the lead feminine role, while is best in the feminine role of a witch with transcending powers. In order to match the Caucasian physiognomy of the authors of the script had to invent a biography of a mixed race cavalier who did not appear in the original story. The role will not be remembered as a peak of his acting career, but he did not do less or worse than many other lead stars in action movies. Cinematography is beautiful, costumes are colorful and expressive, and the action scenes are well choreographed.  ‘47 Ronin‘ is a well made action movie which succeeds to be true to the essence of the story despite the liberties taken by the Hollywood adaptation of the story. It may lack authenticity, but purist can always find on youTube the Japanese film with the same name made in 1941. It is all spoken in Japanese (with subtitles) and it lasts longer than 3 and half hours.


(video source menatil)