The 47 Ronin story is a daring Asian tale of revenge, bravery, and sacrifice, somehow tortured by Westernized Hollywood into this mythical escapism. Ronin does not elevate the historical aura so much as it does insult it.
Banished from their clan, proud and stout samurai continue their bond in an uprising against an evil lord. For 47 Ronin, he’s evil because he wears black. In a subtle racist barb, samurai come comically color coded as if audiences would be unable to separate characters solely by their features.
Were separating Asians like disassociated primary school children an only grievance, 47 Ronin would service audiences with its hackneyed sword clashing and dragon punching. But no, director Carl Rinsch’s feature dabbles in gross depictions of sexualized violence, capturing suicidal glorification with touches of lesbianism in a bizarre and uncomfortable concoction of mainstream cinematic failure. Ceremonial seppuku this is not.
Notable studio tinkering leaves behind a misshapen feature, seemingly pulled together from stray leftovers with introductory narration meant to salvage an oblong Keanu Reeves vehicle. Droopy humor is mislaid as perfunctory third act desperation, because simpleton fat shaming has an immediate tug. Basho, the smiling and portly Ronin, appears with carelessness as 47 Ronin screams for its emotional stakes. And then Reeves punches a dragon, so there’s that.
It is appalling to the extent at which this clumsiness disengages from its source, and while tales of cultural honor bleed fictitious embellishment, Fast & Furious writer Chris Morgan warps sacrifice into predetermined Caucasian molding. It takes Reeves’ Kai, trained by esoteric Tengu, to save this warped band of disgraced samurai – as if their code and meticulous discipline were unable to compensate for their small numbers.
Even in looking over its thrashing of 1700s born legend, 47 Ronin is roughed up and battered with sketchy editing between action highs plus a trio of computer generated mutations who are ultimately ill-advised. 47 Ronin’s cluster of reality is left in tatters, bringing forth an adult fairy tale into a mythical (if yet supposedly grounded) samurai odyssey. It is an ugly and imprecise tale with an insulting edge to the entirety of a culture.
There are times where 47 Ronin appears slung through post-production without traditional fix-ins, so murky and removed from visual life as to appear caught in a perpetual swampy haze. Black levels seem disinterested in performing, and contrast is awash with atypical grays. These elements only add to a heap of weary decisions, although much could be said for a rush job appearance in conjunction to Universal’s “fixing” process.
The Arri Alexa distributes definition in pieces, a patch here or patch there, before digital overlay sweeps across this 2.35:1 frame. Adjectives spawn in droves to define 47 Ronin’s broken visual scope, from mushy to blurry to weary. It’s a film, despite Budapest’s location beauty, which is infinitely warped by sluggish post production work.
No preparedness is shown to support background noise, nor is Universal’s encode willing to create a lock down on artifacts. Compression flubs spring up whenever material is challenged by the source, if relegated to background bothers.
Any depth is saved by color decisions and despite misgivings about the choice, the multi-hued armor does appear lavish. Costuming is this feature’s highlight, whether in discussion of the film or this disc’s end result. Screens can be peppered by greenery or primary boldness as allowed by lighting. Flame lit interiors, despite a logical tint of orange, are disturbed by black levels distancing themselves. The resulting mush is garish.
At least Universal’s disc offers a soundscape of merit with a DTS-HD mix utilizing the breadth of a 5.1 soundscape with some frequency. Although fronts exhibit limited separation, action is punctuated by roving monsters, an underground brawl with a mace whipping mutant, and plentiful arrow slinging. Dynamic splits in the rears capture an extensive level of positioning as swords clang into one another or rain spills down onto the scenery.
Also appreciable is LFE work, thundering during 47 Ronin’s boomy opening action. A rainbowed bull/thing stomps furiously and each thud resonates deep. Anything meant to establish or sell scale is admirable. Especially pleasing are Taiko drums with their deep results.
This disc is spit out almost in spite, attempting to recover losses with lean bonuses of limited appeal. Four deleted scenes are menial in necessity, mostly filler for their eight minutes of existence. Reforging the Legend is brief as it runs through directorial and writer reasoning. Keanu & Kai delves into Reeves’ role and Myths and Magic and Monsters peeks its head into visual effect creation.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.