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
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
DMG Entertainment
Warrior Productions
Stuber Productions
Relativity Media
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • 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 historical 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 battling 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 theatrically in the United States on December 25, 2013 by Universal Pictures in both 3D and 2D formats. Upon its release, 47 Ronin received generally negative reviews from critics and grossed $151 million against its total production budget of $175–225 million, becoming a box office bomb and leaving Universal in the red for 2013.[5] Variety listed 47 Ronin as one of "Hollywood's biggest box office bombs of 2013".[6]

A standalone sequel, Blade of the 47 Ronin, was released on October 25, 2022 on Netflix.


In late-medieval Japan, Kai is a half-Japanese and half-English outcast who gets saved by Lord Asano, the benevolent ruler of the Akō Domain. Kai and Asano's daughter Mika fall in love, despite the scorn her father's samurai hold for Kai’s mixed ancestry.

Lord Kira, the Shōgun's master of ceremonies, seeks to take Akō for himself with the help of Mizuki, a shapeshifting kitsune. She sends a kirin to kill Asano and his men on a hunting trip, leading Kai to ride to their aid. Taking up a fallen sword, Kai slays the monster and spots Mizuki in the form of a white fox with different-colored eyes. When the Shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi visits Akō, Kai notices Mizuki disguised as a concubine with the same multi-colored eyes. He tries to warn Asano's principal counselor, Oishi, about the witch in Kira's household, but is dismissed.

For the entertainment of the Shōgun, Kira arranges a duel between his best warrior, a golem, and Asano's chosen combatant, whom Mizuki incapacitates with magic. Kai secretly dons his armor to fight in his stead, but is unmasked during the duel, and the Shōgun orders him severely beaten. That night, Mizuki bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing him to attack the unarmed lord. Sentenced to death, Asano is compelled to perform seppuku to preserve his honor. The Shōgun gives Kira domain over Akō and Mika, granting her one year of mourning before she must marry Kira. The Shōgun brands Oishi and his men ronin, forbidding them from avenging Asano, and Kira has Oishi imprisoned and Kai sold into slavery.

Nearly a year later, Oishi is released by his captors, believing him harmless. Having realized that Kira used sorcery to frame Asano, Oishi and his son Chikara reunite the scattered ronin, and rescue Kai from the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. Kai leads them to the mystical Tengu Forest, which he escaped as a child, to obtain the special blades of the Tengu. Warning Oishi never to draw his sword inside the Tengu temple, Kai faces the Tengu Master who once trained him. Faced with an illusion of his men being slaughtered by the Tengu, Oishi resists the urge to draw his sword, while Kai bests his former master. Having proven themselves worthy, the ronin receive their blades.

They plan to ambush Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine to seek blessings for his wedding to Mika, but the procession is a trap and most of the ronin are killed. Believing them all dead, Mizuki presents Kira with Oishi's sword, and taunts Mika with their deaths. Oishi and Kai, having survived the attack, lead half the remaining ronin to infiltrate Kira's castle, disguised as a band of wedding performers. With Kira's men distracted during the performance, the other ronin scale the castle walls and attack the guards. While Oishi fights Kira, Kai and Mika face Mizuki in the form of a dragon, and Kai finally draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu to kill her. Oishi emerges with Kira's severed head, and Kira's retainers surrender.

The ronin and Kai surrender themselves to the authorities of the bakufu and are sentenced to death, having violated the Shōgun's prohibition on avenging Asano. However, the Shōgun declares that they followed the principles of bushido and restores their honor as samurai, allowing them to perform seppuku and receive the honor of burial with Asano. The Shōgun returns domain of Akō to Mika, and pardons Chikara so that he may preserve Oishi’s bloodline and serve Akō.

An epilogue explains the tradition of paying respect at the graves of the 47 Ronin, which continues every year on December 14.




47 Ronin was first announced in December 2008, with Keanu Reeves attached to star. According to Variety, the film would "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 Pictures planned to produce the film in 2009 after hiring a director[10] and entered talks with Carl Rinsch, who previously filmed "visual and stylish" blurbs for various companies, to direct the film in November of that year.[11]

In December 2010, the studio announced that the film would be produced and released in 3D.[12] Between March[13] and April[14] 2011, five Japanese actors - Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Kou Shibasaki and Jin Akanishi - were cast alongside Reeves, as Universal wanted the film to be more authentic instead of casting actors more recognizable in the United States.[13] Universal provided Rinsch with a production budget of $175 million for the film despite his inexperience with feature-length films, which was considered by The Hollywood Reporter to be a "large-scale, downright risky" move on behalf of the studio.[15]


Principal photography for the film began on March 14, 2011 in Budapest.[15] Origo Film Group contributed to the film. Production moved to Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom while additional filming in Japan was planned.[8] Reeves revealed that various scenes were first filmed in the Japanese language to familiarize the cast, and were then filmed again in English.[4] The costumes were designed by Penny Rose, who stated that "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."[16]

Reshoots were done in London in late August 2012, which were delayed by the 2012 Summer 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.[17] In addition, the studio added a love scene, extra close-ups and individual lines of dialogue to try and boost Reeves' presence in the film, which "significantly added" to the budget of the film.[17]


47 Ronin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a soundtrack album containing the film score composed by Ilan Eshkeri, which 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,[18] but was delayed to February 8, 2013 due to the need for work on the 3D effects.[19] It was moved once more to a final release date of December 25, 2013, due to the need for work on the reshoots and post-production.[20]

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.[21]

Home media[edit]

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released 47 Ronin on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on April 1, 2014.[22]


Box office[edit]

47 Ronin originally premiered in Japan on December 6, 2013, where it opened to 753 screens and grossed an estimated $1.3 million, opening in third place behind Lupin the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie and Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya). Variety reported that the Japanese debut was "troubling", considering the well-known local cast and the fact that the film is loosely based on a famous Japanese tale.[23] The evening tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai reported that its dismal performance were "unheard-of numbers" generated by the Japanese distaste for a Hollywood rendition of Chūshingura, which bore little resemblance to the renowned historical epic.[24]

In the United States, the film grossed $20.6 million in five days after its release on Christmas Day 2013, opening in ninth place and facing heavy competition from Frozen, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In the United Kingdom, the film grossed $2.3 million upon debuting in fifth place.[25] The film was a box office bomb, unable to recover its $175 million production budget.[26][27]

Critical response[edit]

47 Ronin received predominantly negative reviews from film critics, failing to impress Japanese audiences where studio expectations were high.[28] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 16% approval rating based on 90 reviews, with an average score of 4.20/10. The critical consensus reads: "47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 28 out of 100 based on 21 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[31][32]

Kirsten Acuña of Business Insider stated that the film flopped for three reasons: First, it opened in December when there is an oversaturation of films for the Christmas season; second, the film took "too long in the vault" after having undergone editing and lost momentum as a result; 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 Ref.
40th Saturn Awards[34] Best Costume Penny Rose Nominated [35][36]
Best Production Design Jan Roelfs Nominated
IGN Awards Best Fantasy Movie and Best 3D Movie 47 Ronin Nominated [37]
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 [38][39]


A stand-alone sequel, titled Blade of the 47 Ronin, was released exclusively on Netflix on October 25, 2022.[40][41][42]


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External links[edit]