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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Action > Revenge > Drama > 47 Ronin (2013/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD and Digital HD/Ultraviolet Copy)

47 Ronin (2013/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD and Digital HD/Ultraviolet Copy)

Picture: A/B- Sound: A/B- Extras: B Film: B+

Universal's 47 Ronin was the 2013 Christmas release that was overshadowed by American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Frozen, and the remaining Oscar buzzed movies of the holiday. While the film is not perfect, it deserved better. It has great action, spectacle, and beautiful color palettes. If you are a fan of fantasy, action, or samurai films then this is definitely one that is not to be missed.

Keanu Reeves stars with Pacific Rim's Rinko Kikuchi (who was the highlight of the film for me) in this film set in a fantastical feudal Japan where giant monsters and witchcraft is not unusual. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and reclaim their honor. The band of ronin must seek the help of Kai - an enslaved half-breed they once rejected - in an ultimate fight for redemption against mythic and wondrous terrors. With his keen ability to see things others can't and his almost god-like movements in battle, Kai becomes the heroic inspiration for these outnumbered warriors to confront their enemy and seize eternity.

I've been a fan of Keanu for quite some time and make an effort to see every film that he is in. He's a creative actor with a commitment to his craft from both in front of and behind the camera that is very physical. If you like him as an actor, you should definitely check out his directorial debut The Man of Tai Chi which was also released last year. Here we see him as Kai, who is a misunderstood half breed with powers that others do not understand and three unusual marks on the back of his head. He is the outsider that goes from slave to fighting dog to gifted sword bearer to legend. He is in love with Meka, daughter to Lord Asatu, who has been a valued friend to him since childhood. One of the coolest moments in the film is when Kai fights a huge hulk-like mutant in an underground fighting arena and beheads him in front of a crowd. There are just so many cool fight sequences with him that it's hard to list them all without giving too much away.

The wild cast of characters include an eight foot tall Samurai warrior, a shape shifting witch with beautiful eyes, a deadly spider, a fully tattooed Porter, and various mutants and monsters that step right out of Japanese myth. The costumes and production design help flesh out the realism of the period and add to the creative world of the film. In the special features, the costume designer Penny Rose points out that each location has its only unique color and tone and Blu-ray is the perfect avenue to show off the attention to detail the filmmakers had.

One of the most obvious gripes about the movie was that its primarily in English. While I think it may have been perceived better had it been in Japanese, I can understand why this choice was made to sell to an American audience. I think The Last Samurai was a good example of meeting in the middle by using English and native tongue that maybe some have been a model for this project.

The 1080p digital high definition transfer is beautiful! Universal did a great job with this release and really brought out the wide range of colors used in the film and the details in the frame. The anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio is 2.40.1, shot on an Arri Alexa HD camera and reinforces the film's epic scope. The anamorphically enhanced DVD is passable, but no match for the Blu-ray. The audio is crisp, loud, and clear with English DTS-HD Master Audio lossless 5.1 mix and additional DVS 2.0 tracks, English Dolby Digital 2.0, and additional Spanish and French language tracks, while the DVD version only has lossy Dolby Digital, but has Dolby 5.1 which is fine, but again, no match for the Blu-ray's DTS-MA sound.

Special features include Keanu and Kai, Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin, Myths, Magic and Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin, Deleted Scenes and Re-Forging the Legend. I would have liked a commentary track or two and maybe more in depth (or longer) features.

Overall, I think 47 Ronin is worth a watch and was severely underrated upon its initial release. It has good pacing, incredible locations, interesting characters, and memorable moments. I hope it finds a wider audience on the home video market.

- James Harland Lockhart V



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