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 fictionalised 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 in the title role, 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 stylised interpretation set “in a world of witches and giants.”
Despite its critical and commercial failure, a sequel, Blade of the 47 Ronin, was released on 25 October 2022.
In late medieval Japan, a half-Japanese, half-English outcast named Kai is saved by the benevolent Lord Asano, 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-coloured eyes. When the Shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi visits Akō, Kai notices Mizuki disguised as a concubine with the same multi-coloured eyes. He tries to warn Asano’s principal counsellor, 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 armour 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 honour. 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 seeks 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 14 December.
- Keanu Reeves as Kai, a half-Japanese, half-English outcast adopted by the household of Lord Asano who joins the Ronin.
- The character was created for the film.
- Daniel Barber as Teen Kai.
- Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshio Oishi, the leader of the Rōnin.
- Tadanobu Asano as Lord Yoshinaka Kira, Lord Asano’s rival daimyō.
- Rinko Kikuchi as Mizuki the Witch, an odd-eyed sorceress who serves Lord Kira.
- Ko Shibasaki as Mika Asano, Lord Asano’s daughter and Kai’s love interest.
- Arisa Maekawa as Teen Mika.
- Min Tanaka as Lord Naganori Asano, the former master of the Rōnin.
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shōgun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa.
- Jin Akanishi as Chikara Oishi, Oishi’s son.
- Masayoshi Haneda as Yasuno.
- Hiroshi Sogabe as Hazama.
- Takato Yonemoto as Basho.
- Hiroshi Yamada as Hara.
- Yorick van Wageningen as Kapitan.
- Masayuki Deai as Isogai.
- Shu Nakajima as Horibe.
- Togo Igawa as Tengu Lord.
- Natsuki Kunimoto as Riku.
- Gedde Watanabe as Troupe Leader (Kabuki Actor).
- Rick Genest as Foreman.
- Ron Bottitta as Narrator.
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 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.
In December 2010, the studio announced that the film would be produced and released in 3D. Between March and April 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. 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.
Principal photography began on 14 March 2011 in Budapest. Origo Film Group contributed to the film. Production moved to Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom; additional filming in Japan was also planned. Reeves said that scenes were filmed first in the Japanese language in order to familiarise the cast, to which the scenes were filmed again in the English language. 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.”
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. 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.
47 Ronin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the film’s soundtrack album of music composed and made by Ilan Eshkeri and was released on 17 December 2013 by Varèse Sarabande.
47 Ronin was originally scheduled to be released on 21 November 2012, but was moved to 08 February 2013 due to the need for work on the 3D visual effects. It was once again moved to a final release date of 25 December 2013 in order to account for the re-shoots and post-production.
An endorsement from the cast of Sengoku Basara was held until 23 January 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.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released 47 Ronin on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on 01 April 2014.
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. 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. 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. The film was a box office bomb, unable to recover its $175 million production budget.
47 Ronin received predominantly negative reviews from film critics, failing to impress Japanese audiences where studio expectations were high.
Refer to Blade of the 47 Ronin.
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. By April 2021, actress Aimee Garcia and former professional wrestler-turned-author AJ Mendez were writing the sequel. Principal photography took place in Budapest in December 2021. Blade of the 47 Ronin was produced by Universal 1440 Entertainment and distributed by Netflix for release on 25 October 2022.
- Carl Rinsch clashed with Universal over the final vision of the film.
- Universal wanted to make an effects-driven fantasy blockbuster akin to Avatar (2009) or The Lord of the Rings, while Rinsch envisioned the film as more of a drama, such as Gladiator (2000), or Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
- This is the seventh cinematic adaptation of the 47 Ronin incident, after The 47 Ronin (1941), The Loyal 47 Ronin (1958), Chushingura (1962), The Fall of Ako Castle (1978), 47 Ronin (1994), and The Last Ronin (2010).
- This is however the first Hollywood cinematic adaptation.
- The film’s budget ballooned to $175 million because of complex re-shoots and a lengthy post-production period.
- While not a success in cinemas, it did well on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray.
- The arrows for the film were made by Michael Reape, a famous European arrow maker.
- A small amount of arrows were made in “museum” quality for close-ups.
- Re-shoots were done in London during late August 2012, delayed by the Olympics and the filming of Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi (2013).
Production & Filming Details
- Carl Rinsch.
- Pamela Abdy … producer.
- Chris Fenton … executive producer.
- Walter Hamada … executive producer.
- Michael Maker … associate producer (uncredited).
- Eric McLeod … producer.
- Erwin Stoff … executive producer.
- Scott Stuber … executive producer.
- Chris Morgan … (screenplay).
- Hossein Amini … (screenplay).
- Chris Morgan … (screen story by).
- Walter Hamada … (screen story by).
- Ilan Eshkeri.
- John Mathieson … director of photography.
- Stuart Baird.
- Bluegrass Films (as Stuber Productions).
- H2F Entertainment.
- Mid Atlantic Films.
- Moving Picture Company (MPC).
- B&H Film Distribution (2014) (Ukraine) (theatrical).
- Cocinsa (2013) (Nicaragua) (theatrical).
- Relativity Media (2013) (USA) (theatrical) (in association with).
- Solar Entertainment (2014) (Philippines) (theatrical) (UIP-Solar Entertainment).
- Toho-Towa (2013) (Japan) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2014) (Argentina) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2014) (Denmark) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2014) (Ecuador) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2013) (Greece) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2013) (Hungary) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2014) (Philippines) (theatrical) (UIP-Solar Entertainment).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2013) (Poland) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2013) (Singapore) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Australia) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Germany) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Spain) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2013) (France) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (UK) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Italy) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Mexico) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2013) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Russia) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2014) (Brazil) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures (2013) (Canada) (theatrical).
- Universal Pictures (2013) (USA) (theatrical).
- Westec Media Limited (2014) (Cambodia) (theatrical).
- Channel 4 Television Corporation (2016) (UK) (TV).
- Feelgood Entertainment (2014) (Greece) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
- Italia 1 (2016) (Italy) (TV).
- NBCUniversal Entertainment (2014) (Japan) (Blu-ray).
- NBCUniversal Entertainment (2014) (Japan) (DVD).
- Net5 (2016) (Netherlands) (TV).
- Universal Home Entertainment (2014) (UK) (DVD).
- Universal Home Entertainment (2014) (UK) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) (2014) (USA) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) (2014) (USA) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) (2020) (USA) (all media) (Ultra HD Blu-ray).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2014) (Germany) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2014) (Germany) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2020) (Germany) (all media) (Ultra HD Blu-ray).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2014) (Netherlands) (Blu-ray).
- Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2014) (Netherlands) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures (2014) (Germany) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures (2014) (Germany) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures (2014) (Netherlands) (Blu-ray).
- Universal Pictures (2014) (Netherlands) (DVD).
- Universal Pictures (2020) (Germany) (all media) (Ultra HD Blu-ray).
- Veronica (2016) (Netherlands) (TV).
- Waylen Group (2014) (Taiwan) (video).
- Zon Audiovisuais (2013) (Portugal) (all media).
- Release Date: 06 December 2013 (Japan).
- Rating: 12A.
- Running Time: 128 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.