Last updated: June 25. 2014 12:12PM - 403 Views
Tom Doty Times Columnist

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A band of disgraced warriors unite against the tyrant who tricked their leader, in this action-packed remake of an oft-told Japanese story.

The other day, I ran into someone who reads this column. To my surprise, she did not hit me with a stick, but instead told me all about this movie. I checked it out am very happy to share it with you and hope that you share with me some of your favorite flicks so I can pass them on to others.

The story begins with a young Caucasian lad ,Kai, running for his life. He is taken in by Lord Asano who raises the boy alongside his daughter, Mika. Kai proves useful as he seems to know a fair bit about nature and the supernatural. His social station remains at a lower berth, though, and he can never join the samurai who guard his master.

We see his talents in an early scene in which the group tracks a ferocious beast. This thing is completely nasty but resembles nothing I ever saw in National Geographic. It rocks a ton of eyeballs, a nasty attitude, and some razor sharp claws. Kai manages to kill it, but a member of Asano’s samurai takes the credit.

Meanwhile a power hungry shogun (think of a governor with aspirations to greatness and the evil means to get them, sort of like New Jersey’s Chris Christie) is coming to the area. Asano must roll out the red carpet, which includes dangling his daughter before the shogun’s boy (who is a complete tool) and hosting a contest between their best fighters.

The shogun has the advantage. His fighter is about 8 feet tall and lives inside so much armor he must be part armadillo. Then there is the concubine/witch he employs to poison his enemies so they can’t even show up to get bounced around by his iron giant. The witch manages to take down Asano’s fighter with a potion but Kai messes up the plan by impersonating the warrior.

In short, the plan gets fouled up when the shogun’s warrior knocks off Kai’s helmet, revealing the subterfuge. The shogun’s enchantress takes things to the next level by possessing Asano and forcing him to make a move against the shogun, the end result being Asano must fall on his sword while his men are stripped of their status as samurai and reduced to being masterless Ronin. Kai fares poorly too and is beaten with sticks before being sold into slavery.

If all this sounds like a wind up to a furious, revenge-driven battle, then you are in for a treat. One year later, the 47 Ronin unite with Kai and head back home to stomp the shogun’s men and rescue Mika from being married off. You get all manner of battle sequences and a really cool visit into the haunted forest that Kai escaped from at the start of the film.

The final battle is lean, mean and well executed, with our heroes rising to the occasion and opening a whole can of gory vengeance. However, this is a film about obeying a strict code (though the bad guys never do) and the ending is also pretty tragic. All they have won is the chance to die honorably.

I have to thank the reader that turned me on to this one. This story is epic and has been made several times in Japan. It has been tinkered with in every version, but this one has the best budget and special effects.

The film also has Keanu Reeves, and he is just fine here as Kai, so you Keanu haters need to get over it already and see this one.

My only complaint is having the whole Japanese cast speak English. It’s not like Reeves has a great command of the language. In the end, it doesn’t matter, as this is a movie about guys beating up on other guys and supernatural monsters, and that is an international language we all understand.

2013, rated PG-13.

Best lines

“This life has nothing to offer but death.”

“Even if we succeed, we will be hanged.”

“I would rather have been killed by that beast than saved by a half-breed.”

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