Solemn as a funeral march, humorless as your junior high principal, as Japanese as a grocery-store California roll, Keanu Reeves's let's-mope-about-and-kill-ourselves samurai drama has exactly three things going for it. First, the cockeyed sensuality of Rinko Kikuchi as a spider-puking evil witch who can transform herself into a fox, a swathe of magic-carpet silk, or this month's second-most impressive movie dragon. Second is those flying silks, whose airborne undulations demonstrate more personality than any of the characters save that witch herself — she's cursive calligraphy in a cast of square and clunking alphabet blocks. And a distant third is one sequence of amusing movie violence. The 47 good guys are storming the palace of the lord who banished them, shamed them, tricked their master into seppuku, and kidnapped their princess. (He's four villains in one!) These ronin scale a wall in a snowstorm, lasso the evil lord's guards to yank them off the ramparts, and work up impossible traps and tricks to thin the enemies' ranks. It's a reverse Home Alone, and it's the only sustained burst of excitement in 47 Ronin's two grinding hours — and it lasts maybe three minutes. Other than that, the movie is all slow, portentous dialogue, each word dripping out like tree sap. Keanu Reeves stars but doesn't say much. He's one of the few castmembers who seems comfortable speaking the English everyone in the film's feudal Japan for some reason relies upon. Quite a few actors seem not to have mastered English l's and r's -- it seems cruel, then, that the producers force them to keep calling Reeves's character "half-breed."
Carl RinschKeanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko KikuchiChris Morgan, Hossein Amini, Walter HamadaScott Stuber, Pamela Abdy, Eric McLeodUniversal Pictures