47 Ronin (2013 film)

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47 Ronin
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarl Rinsch
Screenplay byChris Morgan
Hossein Amini
Story byChris Morgan
Walter Hamada
Based onChūshingura
Produced byPamela Abdy
Eric McLeod
StarringKeanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
Tadanobu Asano
Rinko Kikuchi
Ko Shibasaki
CinematographyJohn Mathieson
Edited byStuart Baird
Music byIlan Eshkeri
H2F Entertainment
Mid Atlantic Films
Moving Picture Company
Stuber Productions
Relativity Media
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 6, 2013 (2013-12-06) (Japan)
  • December 25, 2013 (2013-12-25) (United States)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$175–225 million[1][2][3]
Box office$151.8 million[1]

47 Ronin is a 2013 American fantasy action film directed by Carl Rinsch in his directorial debut. Written by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini from a story conceived by Morgan and Walter Hamada, the film is a work of Chūshingura ("The Treasury of Loyal Retainers"): a fictionalized account of the forty-seven rōnin, a real-life group of masterless samurai under daimyō Asano Naganori in 18th-century Japan who avenged Naganori's death by confronting his rival Kira Yoshinaka. Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi and Ko Shibasaki, the film bears little resemblance to its historical basis compared to previous adaptations, and instead serves as a stylized interpretation set "in a world of witches and giants."[4]

Produced by H2F Entertainment, Mid Atlantic Films, Moving Picture Company, Stuber Productions and Relativity Media, 47 Ronin premiered in Japan on December 6, 2013 before being released by Universal Pictures on December 25, 2013 in the United States in both 3D and 2D. While the action sequences and visuals were praised, 47 Ronin received generally negative reviews from critics and grossed just $151 million against its production budget of $175–225 million, making it a costly box office bomb that left Universal in the red for 2013.[5] Variety magazine listed 47 Ronin as one of "Hollywood's biggest box office bombs of 2013".[6] Despite its critical and commercial failure, a sequel was announced in 2020 to begin production in 2021.[7]


In late medieval Japan, Kai is a half-Japanese, half-English outcast who lives in the Akō Domain, which is ruled by the benevolent Lord Asano Naganori. When Kai was young, Asano adopted him as a foundling. Asano's daughter Mika and Kai eventually fall in love, despite Kai being scorned by her father's samurai due to his mixed ancestry.

Before a planned visit from Shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Asano is visited by the Shōgun's master of ceremonies, Lord Kira, who wants to take Akō for himself. Kira enlists the help of a shapeshifting kitsune, Mizuki, who sends a kirin to kill Asano in the forest of Ako during a hunting trip. Asano's samurai struggle in their battle with the monster, so Kai joins in riding an abandoned horse. As the monster charges him, Kai recovers a lost sword that he uses to slay it. He spots Mizuki watching the battle, disguised in her white fox form with different colored eyes. Later, during the Shōgun's visit, Kai notices a concubine with the same multi-colored eyes. He tries to warn Asano's principal counselor, Oishi, that a witch is present among Kira's household, but Oishi dismisses his warning.

Later, Kira arranges a duel for the entertainment of the Shōgun: Kira's best warrior, a golem, will battle a warrior of Asano's choosing. However, before the duel begins, Mizuki uses her magic to incapacitate Asano's combatant. Kai secretly dons his armor and fights in his stead, but his disguise is revealed, and the Shōgun orders him severely beaten as punishment. Later that night, Mizuki casts a spell to make Asano believe that Kira is raping Mika, causing him to attack the unarmed lord in his delirium. Asano is sentenced to death for attempting to murder an official of the Shōgun, and is compelled to perform seppuku to preserve his honor. The Shōgun then gives Kira both the Akō domain and Mika, although he grants Mika one year to mourn the death of her father before marrying Kira. The Shōgun also brands Oishi and his men ronin and forbids them from seeking vengeance for Asano's death. Kira has Oishi imprisoned in an outdoor pit, intending to break his spirit as he fears Oishi will seek retribution regardless.

Nearly a year later, Oishi is released by his captors as they believe that he is now harmless. During his captivity, Oishi deduces that Kira is guilty of treachery for using sorcery to frame Asano. Oishi reunites with his family and asks his son Chikara to aid him in reuniting the scattered ronin. They learn that Kai has been sold into slavery and Oishi rescues him from the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. Kai leads them to the Tengu Forest, a mystical place where he escaped from as a child, so that they can obtain the special blades of the Tengu. Kai instructs Oishi to never draw his sword while inside 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 successfully fights the urge to draw his sword. With Kai and Oishi having proven themselves worthy, the ronin receive their blades.

The ronin plan to ambush Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine where he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. However, the procession turns out to be a trap and the ronin are ambushed by Kira's retainers, led by Mizuki and her samurai guardian. Several of the ronin are killed, and Mizuki, thinking they are all dead, takes Oishi's sword and presents it to Kira as a trophy. Mizuki later taunts Mika with their deaths and attempts to manipulate her into committing suicide from despair.

Oishi and Kai (having actually survived the attack) rally the surviving ronin. They lead half of the ronin to infiltrate Kira's castle by disguising themselves as a band of traveling wedding performers. With Kira's men distracted during the performance, the remaining ronin scale the castle walls, and launch a coordinated attack against the castle guards. While Oishi fights Kira, Kai and Mika are attacked by Mizuki, who shape-shifts into a dragon. Kai uses his sword and draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu to finally kill her. After gutting him, Oishi emerges with Kira's severed head, and Kira's surviving retainers surrender.

After winning the battle, the ronin (including Kai) surrender themselves to the authorities of the bakufu and are sentenced to death as they explicitly violated the Shōgun's prohibition on avenging Asano. However, the Shōgun discovers that they followed the principles of bushido in their actions and restores their honor as samurai. Thus, instead of execution, the ronin are allowed to perform seppuku. They are also given the honor of burial with their master, Lord Asano. The Shōgun gives Akō back to Mika, and at the seppuku ceremony, he pardons Chikara so that he may serve Akō and preserve Oishi's bloodline for the country.

A closing caption informs the audience of the tradition of paying respect at the graves of the 47 Ronin which continues every year on December 14.




Universal Pictures first announced the film in December 2008, with Keanu Reeves attached to star. Variety then reported that "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[11] and in November of that year, the studio entered talks with Carl Rinsch, who had filmed "visual and stylish" blurbs for brands, to direct the film.[12]

In December 2010, the studio announced that the film would be produced and released in 3D.[13] Between March[14] and April[15] 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 in order to make the film's story more authentic rather than choose actors recognizable in the United States.[14] Universal provided Rinsch with an initial production budget of $175 million despite his complete lack of feature film experience, which led to The Hollywood Reporter considering it to be a "large-scale, downright risky" move.[16]


Principal photography began on March 14, 2011 in Budapest.[17] Origo Film Group contributed to the film. Production moved to Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom; additional filming in Japan was also planned.[9] Reeves said that scenes were filmed first in the Japanese language in order to familiarize the cast, to which the scenes were filmed again in the English language.[4] 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."[18]

Reshoots were done in London during late August 2012, which were delayed by the Olympics and the filming of Reeves' directorial debut Man of Tai Chi. Universal pulled Rinsch from the project during the editing stages in late 2012, with Universal chairwoman Donna Langley taking over the editing process.[19] In addition, the studio added a love scene, extra close-ups and individual lines of dialogue in order to try and boost Reeves' presence in the film, which "significantly added" to the budget of the film.[19]


47 Ronin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the film's soundtrack album of music composed and made by Ilan Eshkeri and was released on December 17, 2013 by Varèse Sarabande.

Soundtrack list
  • Oishi's Tale
  • Kirin Hunt
  • Resentment
  • The Witch's Plan
  • Ako
  • Shogun
  • Tournament
  • Bewitched
  • Assano Seppuku
  • Dutch Island Fugue
  • Reunited Ronin
  • Tengu
  • Shrine Ambush
  • The Witch's Lie
  • Kira's Wedding Quartet
  • Palace Battle
  • The Witch Dragon
  • Return To Ako
  • Shogun's Sentence
  • Mika and Kai
  • Seppuku
  • 47 Ronin


47 Ronin was originally scheduled to be released on November 21, 2012,[20] but was moved to February 8, 2013 due to the need for work on the 3D visual effects.[21] It was once again moved to a final release date of December 25, 2013 in order to account for the re-shoots and post-production.[22]

An endorsement from the cast of Sengoku Basara was held until January 23, 2014, stating that Japanese fans who tweet with the hashtag #RONIN_BASARA could win Sengoku Basara 4 for the PS3 or a 47 Ronin poster signed by the film's cast.[23]

Home media[edit]

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released 47 Ronin on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on April 1, 2014.[24]


Box office[edit]

The film opened in Japan in the first week of December 2013 where it opened to 753 screens nationwide and grossed an estimated US$1.3 million, opening third behind 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 Japanese debut "troubling", considering the well-known local cast and the fact that the film is loosely based on a famous Japanese tale.[25] The evening tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai stated that its dismal performance were "unheard-of numbers" generated by the Japanese distaste for a Hollywood rendition of Chushingura which bore no resemblance to the renowned historical epic.[26] 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.[27] The film was a box office bomb, unable to recover its $175 million production budget.[28][29]

Critical response[edit]

47 Ronin received predominantly negative reviews from film critics, failing to impress Japanese audiences where studio expectations were high.[30] At the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 16% approval rating based on 87 reviews, with an average score of 4.16/10. The critical consensus states: "47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles."[31] On Metacritic the film has a score of 28 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[32] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.

Kirsten Acuña of Business Insider stated that the film flopped for three reasons: First, it opened in December when there is an over-saturation of films for the Christmas season; second, the film took "too long in the vault", having undergone editing and lost momentum; and third, audiences had not been drawn to Reeves as an actor since The Matrix Revolutions (which was released ten years prior) and that he had not yet reestablished his stardom prior to making John Wick.[33]


Award Category Recipient Result
40th Saturn Awards[34] Best Costume Penny Rose Nominated
Best Production Design Jan Roelfs Nominated
IGN Awards Best Fantasy Movie and Best 3D Movie 47 Ronin Nominated
Golden Reel Award Best Sound Editing - Music in a Feature Film Andrew Silver (supervising music editor), Kenneth Karman (music editor), Julie Pearce (music editor) and Peter Oso Snell (music editor) Nominated


In August 2020, a sequel was announced to be in development. Ron Yuan will serve as director, with John Orlando, Share Stallings and Tim Kwok co-producing. The plot of the film will take place 300 years in the future and will be a mashup of genres including martial arts, horror, action, and science fiction cyber-punk. It was also announced that actress Aimee Garcia and former wrestler turned author AJ Mendez will write the sequel.[35] The project will be produced by Universal 1440 Entertainment and distributed by Netflix. Production is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2021.[7]


  1. ^ a b "47 Ronin (2013)". Box Office Mojo. February 26, 2014. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Masters, Kim (May 23, 2012). "'Battleship' Fallout: Lessons From a Box Office Sinking (Analysis)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  3. ^ Lee, Chris (December 25, 2013). "Troubled '47 Ronin' may be headed for a box office reckoning". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Boucher, Geoff (May 24, 2011). "Keanu Reeves and '47 Ronin' search for 'honor, revenge and impossible love'". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ a b c d e "'47 Ronin': The Inside Story of Universal's Samurai Disaster". Variety.com. December 30, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  6. ^ Variety Staff (December 26, 2013). "Hollywood's Biggest Box Office Bombs of 2013". Variety. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Ramos, Dino-Ray (August 12, 2020). "'47 Ronin' Sequel Sets 'Mulan's Ron Yuan As Director". Deadline.com.
  8. ^ "47 Ronin Start of Principal Photography Announced". ComingSoon.net. March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Blair, Gavin J. (March 2, 2011). "Japanese Cast Announced for Keanu Reeves' '47 Ronin'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  10. ^ Pang, Lauren (April 14, 2011). "Jin Akanishi set to star in 47 Ronin". Asia Pacific Arts. University of Southern California. Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (December 8, 2008). "Keanu Reeves to lead '47 Ronin'". Variety.
  12. ^ Fleming, Michael (November 17, 2009). "Universal circles Rinsch for '47 Ronin'". Variety.
  13. ^ "47 Ronin Goes 3D". ComingSoon.net. December 9, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  14. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (March 1, 2011). "Four Japanese actors join '47 Ronin'". Variety.
  15. ^ "Jin Akanishi joins cast of Carl Erik Rinsch's "47 Ronin"".
  16. ^ Fernandez, Jay A. (February 20, 2011). "Studios handing big films to untested directors". Reuters.
  17. ^ Fernandez, Jay A. (February 20, 2011). "Studios handing big films to untested directors". Reuters.
  18. ^ Staff (July 28, 2011). "Costume Designers: Below-the-Line Impact Report 2011". Variety.
  19. ^ a b "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.
  20. ^ McClintock, Pamela (October 29, 2010). "Universal set 2012 schedule". Variety.
  21. ^ Kit, Borys (April 25, 2012). "Universal Pushes Back Keanu Reeves' '47 Ronin'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  22. ^ Rich, Katey (August 15, 2012). "Keanu's 47 Ronin Pushed Again, To Christmas 2013". Cinema Blend. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  23. ^ "Banana Tattoos and "Sengoku Basara" Couldn't Save "47 Ronin" In Japan". Crunchyroll. December 11, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  24. ^ 47 Ronin DVD Release Date | NewDVDReleaseDates.com
  25. ^ Stewart, Andrew. "'47 Ronin' Tanks at Japanese Box Office; Is U.S. Doom Next?". Variety.
  26. ^ "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. Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  27. ^ Subers, Ray. "Weekend Report: 'Hobbit,' 'Frozen' Top 'Wolf,' 'Mitty' on Final Weekend of 2013". Box Office Mojo.
  28. ^ Alexander, Bryan (December 28, 2013). "Report: Flop '47 Ronin' to lose $175 million". USA Today.
  29. ^ McClintock, Pamela (December 27, 2013). "Box Office: Universal's '47 Ronin' Likely to Result in $175 Million Loss". The Hollywood Reporter.
  30. ^ Schroter, Shawn (December 10, 2013). "Japan Unbowed by '47 Ronin'". The Wall Street Journal.
  31. ^ "47 Ronin (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  32. ^ "47 Ronin". Metacritic. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  33. ^ Acuna, Kirsten (January 3, 2014). "Report: Why Keanu Reeves' '47 Ronin' Was A Huge Box-Office Bomb". Seattle Post-Intelligencer/Business Insider.
  34. ^ "Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Lead Saturn Awards Noms"
  35. ^ "'47 Ronin' Sequel Sets 'Lucifer's Aimee Garcia & NYT Bestselling Author AJ Mendez As Scribes". Deadline. April 21, 2021. Retrieved April 21, 2021.

External links[edit]