47 Ronin (2013 film)

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47 Ronin
Teaser poster
Directed by Carl Rinsch
Produced by Pamela Abdy
Eric McLeod
Screenplay by Chris Morgan
Hossein Amini
Story by Chris Morgan
Walter Hamada
Starring Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
Music by Ilan Eshkeri
Cinematography John Mathieson
Edited by Stuart Baird
H2F Entertainment
Mid Atlantic Films
Moving Picture Company
Stuber Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 6, 2013 (2013-12-06) (Japan)
  • December 25, 2013 (2013-12-25) (United States)
Running time 118 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $175 million[2]
Box office $151 million[2]

47 Ronin is a 2013 American fantasy action film depicting a fictional account of the forty-seven Ronin, a real-life group of ronin (masterless samurai) in 18th-century Japan who avenged the death of their lord (stories, plays and other dramatic performances of the 47 Ronin story are commonly referred to as Chūshingura in Japan). Produced by Universal Studios, the film was directed by Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. Filming started in Budapest in Origo Studios in March 2011; it moved to Shepperton Studios in London and was concluded in Japan.

47 Ronin came out to very negative reviews and, even with some reviewers bestowing some praise for the action and visuals, it grossed only $151 million worldwide, failing to break even and Variety reported the film as a costly box office disaster which left Universal Studios deeply in the red for 2013.[3] Adjusted for inflation it lost an estimated $152 million, making it the second most expensive box office bomb ever behind The 13th Warrior.[2][4]


In late medieval Japan, Kai is a half-Japanese, half-English outcast who lives in the Ako domain, which is ruled by the benevolent Lord Asano Naganori. Asano found a young Kai lost in the forest and accepted him into his household. Despite being scorned by the samurai due to his lowborn status and mixed ancestry, Kai and Asano's daughter, Mika, fall in love.

Before a visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Lord Asano is visited by the Shogun's master of ceremonies, Lord Kira. Kira wants the Ako domain for himself, and recently Witch send a monster to Ako to (unsuccessfully) kill Asano. Kai sees a white fox, with different coloured eyes, watching from the underbrush when the monster is killed.

During the Shogun's visit, Kai sees that one of the visiting concubines (Witch) has the same two-coloured eyes, but he is dismissed when trying to warn Asano's principal counselor and samurai, Oishi, that she is a witch. Kira arranges a duel for the entertainment of the Shogun between his best warrior, the giant Lovecraftian Samurai, and one chosen by Asano. When Witch's witchcraft incapacitates Asano's combatant, Kai secretly dons his armor and fights, but his disguise is revealed and the Shogun orders him severely beaten as punishment. Later that night, Witch bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing Asano to attack an unarmed Kira in delirium. Attacking a Shogunate official is an executable offence, though the Shogun allows Asano to die with honor through seppuku. The Shogun then gives the Ako domain and Mika to Lord Kira, and brands Oishi and his men ronin. The Shogun grants Mika one year to mourn the death of her father before her marriage to Kira, and forbids the ronin of Ako from seeking vengeance. To ensure there is no interference, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit.

Nearly a year later Oishi is released by Kira's men. He reunites with his family and asks his son Chikara to aid him in reuniting the ronin, knowing now that Kira is guilty of treachery for using Witch's sorcery to cause Asano's downfall. Learning that Kai has been sold into slavery, Oishi finds him in the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. In search for swords to arm themselves, Kai leads them to the Tengu Forest, a mystical place he escaped from as a child. Kai instructs Oishi to never draw his sword while in the Tengu temple and continues alone to another room to face the Tengu Master, who once trained Kai in their fighting ways. While Kai confronts the Tengu Master in a battle of wills, Oishi watches (an illusion of) his men being slaughtered by the Tengu, during which he fights the urge to draw his own sword. With Kai and Oishi both successful in their Tengu challenges, the ronin are given magical Tengu swords.

Armed with their new weapons, the ronin plan to attack Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine as he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. The procession is a trap and the group is ambushed by Kira's forces, led by Witch and the Lovecraftian Samurai. Several of the ronin are killed, and Witch, believing to have slaughtered them all, takes Oishi's sword and presents it to Lord Kira as a trophy. Witch later taunts Mika with their deaths and attempts to manipulate Mika into despair and suicide.

Having survived the attack, Oishi and Kai rally the ronin survivors. Disguised as members of a band of traveling wedding performers loyal to the memory of Lord Asano, Kai and half the ronin infiltrate Kira's (Asano's) castle. With Kira's men distracted during the performance, the remaining ronin scale the castle walls and the reunited group enter battle with Kira's men. While Oishi battles with Kira, Kai and Mika are attacked by Witch, in the form of a dragon. Kai draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu and kills her. Oishi emerges with Kira's severed head, and Kira's men surrender.

Surrendering themselves to Shogunate authority, the ronin are sentenced to death as they explicitly violated the Shogun's command to not seek revenge. However, the Shogun finds that they followed the principles of Bushido in their actions, restoring their honor as samurai. Instead of being executed as criminals, the ronin are allowed to perform seppuku, dying with their honor restored, and are given the additional honor of burial with their master. Kai is among them. The Shogun gives Ako back to Mika. At the seppuku ceremony, the Shogun pardons Oishi's son Chikara from death, to serve Ako and preserve such a noble samurai bloodline for the country.

Closing notes tell that the tradition of paying respect at the graves of the 47 Ronin continues today.



47 Ronin is the directorial debut of Carl Rinsch based on a screenplay by The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift screenwriter Chris Morgan and The Wings of the Dove screenwriter Hossein Amini brought in for rewrites. The film has almost nothing in common with the original historical epic, being set "in a world of witches and giants."[8] The studio Universal Pictures first announced the project in December 2008 with actor Keanu Reeves attached to star. Variety reported, "The film will tell a stylized version of the story, mixing fantasy elements of the sort seen in The Lord of the Rings pics, with gritty battle scenes akin to those in films such as Gladiator." Universal planned to produce the film in 2009 after finding a director,[9] and in November of that year, the studio entered talks with Rinsch to direct the film. For Rinsch, who has filmed "visual and stylish" blurbs for brands, the film was his feature film debut.[10]

In December 2010, the studio announced that the film would be produced and released in 3D.[11] Between March[12] and April[13] 2011, five Japanese actors were cast alongside Reeves: Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Kou Shibasaki, and Jin Akanishi. According to Variety, Universal chose them to make the story more authentic instead of picking actors that would be recognizable in the United States, despite the screenplay bearing no resemblance to the origin story of Chūshingura. Universal provided Rinsch with an initial production budget of $175 million despite his complete lack of feature film experience, which The Hollywood Reporter considered to be a "large-scale, downright risky" move. Filming began on March 14, 2011 in Budapest.[14] Origo Film Group contributed to the movie. Production moved to Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom; additional filming in Japan was also planned.[6] Reeves said that scenes were filmed first in the Japanese language to familiarize the cast, and the scenes are filmed again in the English language.[8] The actors' costumes were designed by Penny Rose, who said, "We decided to base it on the culture and what the shapes should be—i.e., everyone's in a kimono—but we've thrown a kind of fashion twist at it. And we've made it full of color, which is quite unusual for me."[15]

Reshoots were done in London during late August 2012, delayed by the Olympics and the filming of Reeves' directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. In addition, the studio added a love scene, close-ups, and individual lines to boost Reeves' presence, which added significantly to the overall budget of the film.[16]


47 Ronin was originally scheduled to be released on November 21, 2012,[17] then moved to February 8, 2013, citing the need for work on the 3D visual effects.[18] It was later postponed to December 25, 2013, to account for the reshoots and post-production.[19]


Box office[edit]

The film opened initially in Japan in the first week of December 2013, where it opened to 753 screens nationwide and only grossed an estimated US$1.3 million, opening third behind the debut week of Lupin the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie and the third week of the Studio Ghibli film Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya). Variety called the poor Japanese debut "troubling", considering the well known local cast and the fact that the film is loosely based on a famous Japanese tale.[20] The evening tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai stated that its dismal performance were "unheard of numbers" generated by Japanese distaste for a Hollywood rendition of Chushingura bearing no resemblance to the renowned historical epic.[21]

In the United States, the film grossed US$20.6 million in its first five days of release, opening in ninth place at the box office. It also grossed US$2.3 million for a fifth place debut in the United Kingdom.[22]

The film was widely reported to be a major financial failure, unable to recover its $175 million production (excluding advertising and distribution) budget.[23][24]

Critical response[edit]

47 Ronin received generally negative reviews from critics, failing to impress Japanese audiences where studio expectations were high.[25] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 14% rating, with an average score of 6.3/10, based on 74 reviews; the consensus states: "47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles."[26] The film has a score of 29 (out of 100) on Metacritic, based on 21 critics.[27]

Kirsten Acuña of Business Insider believes that the film flopped for three reasons. First, it opened in December when there is over-saturation of films for the Christmas holiday. Second, the film was “too long in the vault” undergoing editing and lost momentum. Third, audiences have not been drawn to Keanu Reeves since the last Matrix film more than 10 years ago.[28]

Despite the film's poor reception, it received nominations for Best Costume and Best Production Design at the 40th Saturn Awards, but lost to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, respectively.[29]

Home media[edit]

Universal Pictures released 47 Ronin on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on April 1, 2014.[30]


  1. ^ "47 RONIN (12A)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "47 Ronin (2013)". Box Office Mojo. February 26, 2014. Retrieved August 11, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "‘47 Ronin’: The Inside Story of Universal’s Samurai Disaster". Variety.com. December 30, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  4. ^ Shaw, Lucas (September 19, 2012). "Universal Pulls '47 Ronin’ From Director as Budget Swells to $225M". The Wrap. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  5. ^ "47 Ronin Start of Principal Photography Announced". ComingSoon.net. March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Blair, Gavin J. (March 2, 2011). "Japanese Cast Announced for Keanu Reeves' '47 Ronin'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  7. ^ Pang, Lauren (April 14, 2011). "Jin Akanishi set to star in 47 Ronin". Asia Pacific Arts (University of Southern California). 
  8. ^ a b Boucher, Geoff (May 24, 2011). "Keanu Reeves and '47 Ronin' search for 'honor, revenge and impossible love'". Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ Fleming, Michael (December 8, 2008). "Keanu Reeves to lead '47 Ronin'". Variety. 
  10. ^ Fleming, Michael (November 17, 2009). "Universal circles Rinsch for '47 Ronin'". Variety. 
  11. ^ "47 Ronin Goes 3D". ComingSoon.net. December 9, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  12. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 1, 2011). "Four Japanese actors join '47 Ronin'". Variety. 
  13. ^ Jin Akanishi joins cast of Carl Erik Rinsch’s “47 Ronin” - Eigapedia
  14. ^ Fernandez, Jay A. (February 20, 2011). "Studios handing big films to untested directors". Reuters. 
  15. ^ Staff (July 28, 2011). "Costume Designers: Below-the-Line Impact Report 2011". Variety. 
  16. ^ "Universal Takes Over Editing '47 Ronin' As Director Carl Erik Rinsch Removed; Studio Adds Love Scene, Dialogue & More". The Wrap. September 19, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ McClintock, Pamela (October 29, 2010). "Universal set 2012 schedule". Variety. 
  18. ^ Kit, Borys (April 25, 2012). "Universal Pushes Back Keanu Reeves' '47 Ronin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  19. ^ Rich, Katey (August 15, 2012). "Keanu's 47 Ronin Pushed Again, To Christmas 2013". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  20. ^ Stewart, Andrew. "’47 Ronin’ Tanks at Japanese Box Office; Is U.S. Doom Next?". Variety. 
  21. ^ "キアヌ主演「47RONIN」 記録的大コケもプロは高評価". 日刊ゲンダイ. December 13, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  22. ^ Subers, Ray. "Weekend Report: 'Hobbit,' 'Frozen' Top 'Wolf,' 'Mitty' on Final Weekend of 2013". Box Office Mojo. 
  23. ^ Alexander, Bryan (December 28, 2013). "Report: Flop '47 Ronin' to lose $175 million". USA Today. 
  24. ^ McClintock, Pamela (December 27, 2013). "Box Office: Universal's '47 Ronin' Likely to Result in $175 Million Loss". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  25. ^ Schroter, Shawn (December 10, 2013). "Japan Unbowed by ’47 Ronin’". The Wall Street Journal. 
  26. ^ "47 Ronin (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  27. ^ "47 Ronin". Metacritic. Retrieved September 4, 2014. 
  28. ^ Acuna, Kirsten (January 3, 2014). "Report: Why Keanu Reeves' '47 Ronin' Was A Huge Box-Office Bomb". Seattle PI/Business Insider. 
  29. ^ "Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Lead Saturn Awards Noms"
  30. ^ 47 Ronin DVD Release Date | NewDVDReleaseDates.com

External links[edit]