Lord Asano is a good and just master to the Samurai under his command. When their peaceful land of Ako is visited by Shogun Tsunayoshi and the evil Lord Kira, Asano is tricked by witchcraft into harming Kira, ensuring his own death sentence and the disgrace of his Samurai warriors. Seeking the help of the outcast who Asano took in as a boy, Asano’s second in command, Ôishi , brings his men together in order avenge the death of their master.

47 Ronin (2013) – Director: Carl Rinsch

Is 47 Ronin appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 118 mins

Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, Tadanobu Asano

Genre: Action/Adventure

REVIEW

Being based (albeit very loosely) on the real life story of the 47 Ronin, this is a movie full of treachery, betrayal and vengeance. What one has to do is take this film completely out of context and enjoy it not for its historical (in)accuracies but more as an enjoyable Samurai movie steeped in general history, as well as the culture of feudal Japan. What ’47 Ronin’ also includes is witchcraft and supernatural beings which adds an extra layer of interest to proceedings. Many similar movies have tried this tactic and failed, going too over the top with special effects and a reliance on the supernatural to force the story along. However the balance is just right here, a world has been created where some of the more fantastical elements of Japanese folklore are included which do not take over the more believable and realistic side of the tale.

The script of ’47 Ronin’ is spoken entirely in English despite being set in Japan and the whole cast (with the exception of Keanu Reeves) are Japanese. Reeves, who plays the outcast, Kai, thankfully does not come across as the token American trying to steal the show. His subdued performance, making him just like the rest of the warriors, allows the performance of Hiroyuki Sanada as the leader of the Ronin, Ôishi, to shine through. It would have been good for there to have been more character development to more of the Ronin as opposed to there just being a few distinctive looking characters who are ‘nice’. This doesn’t exactly detract from the film but this additional depth would have created more sympathetic and well-rounded characters that the audience could relate to.

While many critics have panned this movie, mostly due to the historical inaccuracies, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Importantly, it is not typically ‘Hollywood’, in fact it comes across as much more of a Japanese film than one might anticipate. My advice is to give this movie a chance, enjoy it as it is and lose yourself in the story.

IS ’47 RONIN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Towards the beginning of the movie, the warriors of Ako go out to fight a huge, mythical beast which is destroying the land. This involves the men striking at it with swords and firing arrows into its body. This attack of the beast is necessary due to its aggressive nature; it is clear that it would kill anyone it came across and the treatment of it does not come across as cruel in any way. The action in this scene is quite intense, with several people being injured and potentially killed and it could be quite frightening for younger children.

One of the major characters in the movie is a malevolent witch (played by Rinko Kikuchi) who is very powerful. She bewitches one of the Samurai and, when others go to find him, he has white eyes and reaches out to them, struggling for breath. She also sneaks into someone’s room while they sleep; during this scene she hovers on the ceiling with her head down and parts of her hair turn into tendril like appendages which slowly reach out towards her victim. The image of this is likely to be quite scary for kids, especially as this whole scene is very spooky. There are other instances of witchcraft, however we feel that these are the most frightening and children who are ok with these scenes should be ok with the rest.

There are instances in this film of characters performing Seppuku which is a form of Japanese ritualistic suicide by disembowelment for an honourable death. This is never shown in any detail and the most that is seen is a blade being placed against the stomach and, when the camera focuses on man’s face, he winces in pain. In order to complete the ritual, a trusted companion stands by, ready to behead the dying man at the correct moment, this is done with a knowing look between the two and the sword is shown to come down, no blood or gore is seen.

One of the ‘bad’ characters is seen to practice fighting with two of his men. After beating them both, one lies unconscious on the ground, the other kneels and bows his head in respect. He then hits this man hard on the head with a wooden pole and, while this man lies helpless on the ground, he stamps on his head several times.

There are several fight scenes where people are injured or killed with swords or bows and arrows. While the fighting is realistic and at times intense and brutal, there is never any blood or gore shown on camera during these fights. The only blood seen is when bloodied thumbprints are placed on a scroll, the characters who do this have cut themselves and this isn’t gory.

There are several decapitations and one results in the victim’s head being held aloft. The head is shown from a distance and is not gory. This head is then seen in close-up but has been placed in a bag, again this is not gory and should not be distressing for kids.

One character believes that a man is raping a woman who he cares about. He can hear her crying out to him and sees a man lying on top of her. This is not graphic and children watching this are more likely to see this as the woman simply being held down against her will as the sexual assault is implied more than shown.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

While not being accurate in its retelling of a famous and beloved story, this version of ’47 Ronin’ is very entertaining. The pacing is good but, due to the film being very serious in tone, it is aimed firmly at an adult audience, making it potentially a little boring for young kids, even though there is plenty of action throughout. Due to the level of violence and the lack of light relief, we would not recommend this movie for children under the age of 10.

  • Violence:  3/5 (lots of deaths by swords, arrows and a few by decapitation and ritual suicide. One minor character is set on fire. His silhouette is shown through the flames for a couple of seconds and he screams in pain. One disgraced character is beaten with large sticks)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (some main characters are killed and mourned but this is not done in an over the top way)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (the witch is likely to be quite scary for younger children. Some of her scenes are akin (but milder) to some Japanese horror films)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5       
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (revenge is often mentioned. There is reference to the elderly, infirm and unwanted children being left in a forest to die)
  • One character is put in a ‘pit’ for a year and suffers during this time, one is sold into slavery and another is taken away from their home in order to be forced into marriage  
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of revenge, friendship, seeing through a person’s class, fighting against evil, witchcraft, loyalty and doing the right thing even if it means making a great personal sacrifice.

Words by Laura Record

47 Ronin [Blu-ray] [2014]


New From: £2.11 GBP In Stock

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