47 Ronin is a pretty decent film. It blends the ancient Japanese story with some magic and an obligatory western character and produces a serviceable and, at times, exciting fantasy romp with quite a good heart and surprisingly solid resolution. The only thing that hurts it is that you want a bit more and a quick search online tells you that there is or at least was plenty more.
Look at the trailer from late last year and you’ll see hear a bit of character voice over that doesn’t quite gel with what you’ve just watched. You’ll also see more of Rick ‘Zombie Boy’ Genest than you do in the film, enough to suggest his place on the Blu-Ray cover was justified rather than the one line he gets in the finished product, and you can’t tell me that they created that fantastic Dutch Colony environment for such a short couple of scenes.
It seems that the director lost control of the film and was booted at the last minute. It also seems that studio heads, worried about the giant swollen budget panicked and started re-editing and re-shooting, inserting more of Keanu Reeves (how could we possibly side with people who don’t look like us?!). Whatever happened we are left with a film that, taken as is, is not the film being slammed by gloating nerds and sneering critics but something much better. The problem is that the ‘could have been’ makes it all quite tragic
I’m left waiting for an extended / director’s cut.
1. Keanu Reeves was making this whilst he was also involved with the documentary Side by Side (2012), a fascinating look at the rise of digital filmmaking and it’s relation to celluloid. As it was shot digitally, 47 Ronin was featured in the documentary so it’s a bit of a shame that, as with the recent Bad Neighbours (2014), there are moments that show just how badly digital copes with bright light.
2. IMDB lists a version ten minutes longer than the one released but I couldn’t find anything online. Fingers crossed.