Review by Micah Unice

47 Ronin – or His White Whoa-ness

Allow me to spare the good people of Hollywood some morning meetings and wig budgets by writing a more direct version of a message they keep hammering into blockbusters. I’ll condense it to fit on flower cards:

“Dear southern African-Americans/Asian nations/Na’vi/ethnicities portrayed by Ben Kingsley,

Your heritage is much easier to digest when it’s being rescued by white people. Please don’t hate; it makes you look super ethnic.

Luv,

Caucasian Moguls On Your Side (CMOYS)”

There. Now if someone could get copies of that to the CMOYS at Warner Bros. and Dreamworks, 2014 just might be the year flower deliveries replace cultural epics featuring white 90’s hearthrobs.

But alas, it’s too late for us to be spared from 47 Ronin, the latest entry in a long line of anglos-to-the-rescue cinebortions. This time around it’s Keanu Reeves donning the white savior mantle, and he manages to do so with less joy than a high school freshman reciting Othello. I can identify no attribute that would qualify him for such a role, other than the fact that his features can pass as mildly Asian. His character, Kai (also referred to as “Half Breed,” with nary a Cher joke), is supposedly the lovechild of a Japanese prostitute and a British soldier. This is of course unverifiable, since there is no mention of his character in the Japanese legend the film is based on. But we should take the movie’s word for it. Because accents.


Say uncle, Japan.

Actually, and unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. The convoluted prologue implies that Kai might be descended from demons, which is super important if we are to believe that he can outsmart a clan of raptor monks or slay a roided up Snuffleupagus. But whether he is part demon or just the product of a mixed race hookup, the movie seems to consider his un-Japanese-ness to be a virtue. That may sound harsh, but consider the evidence. Child Kai has uncanny hunting capabilities that the other samurai aren’t born with. His lip-glossed crush Mika marvels at his Caucasian beauty and sensitivity to nature. He grows up persecuted by his entourage for looking different, but never growls or slams his chopsticks. He speaks in insufferably humble colloquialisms. He’s the only character without a Japanese accent, despite having been raised with everyone else. Of all the samurai bros, he gets the most surfer wispies.

And he’s literally the only white person in the entire film.

Here’s your beside-the-point plot: Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), the master of Kai’s clan, gets framed by Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) for attempting to murder him while he is Asano’s houseguest. How do you frame your host for attempting to murder you? Just have your witch girlfriend (Rinko Kikuchi, the only one who appears to be having any fun) make a spider out of your blood, float over the dude’s bed while he sleeps, and use her octopus-hair to drop it into his mouth. The spider will poop enchanted blood down his throat and induce a hallucination that you’re sexually assaulting his daughter. The rest will take care of itself. I know, right? Hard to believe no one’s thought of it before. Lord Asano is then sentenced to commit seppuku, which is portrayed as performance art suicide on a yoga mat. Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the remaining commander of the samurai – or as they’re now known without a master, the ronin – must spend the rest of the film leading them on a quest for vengeance against Lord Kira before he can marry Asano’s daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki, with perpetual cry-face).


Draw me like one of your valley girls.

So why is Kai’s character even necessary? The answer, aside from better insurance rates and milky backskin, is he is not. By any stretch. This should be Oishi’s story, but because the CMOYS that be don’t believe that Americans can tolerate a screen filled exclusively with Japanese-ities, they’ve summoned their cheapest Tom Cruise understudy. The result is not only an exercise in racism, but a glitzy makeover of an entire culture. There are endless clichéd monologues about nobility and honor. All the extras sport garish, fluorescent robes. Every five to seven minutes there is an eruption of CGI foxes, giants or ghosts. There’s even a cameo by one of Peter Jackson’s cave trolls. This movie is about as authentic as a Yo! Sushi on Fifth Avenue.


It takes a pastel village.

Since it’s based on a famous legend that glorifies suicide, it’s no spoiler to mention that the ronin don’t have many new year’s resolutions in the cards. Such a grim ending requires genuine pathos. But it is impossible to feel the weight of something so tragic (and purportedly altruistic) when we’ve just spent five minutes watching Neo somersault around an ectoplasmic dragon. This is a world where a well-known good guy can infiltrate an enemy palace simply by putting on an Andy Warhol wig. Where demon sword play and fat jokes go hand in hand. In such a world, the notion of seppuku rings more of CMOYS script doctoring than real tradition or honor.

“I will search for you through one thousand worlds and ten thousand lifetimes,” Kai tells Mika, putting some final punctuation to his lily holiness. Given how many white savior movies we’ve already had to endure, I’d say we have about 9,000 lifetimes to go.

Our Rating:
Number of times we thought of that song by The Vapors: 4
Number of times we got wispy-tized: 7
Number of unintentional Michael Bolton impressions: = number of runtime minutes – credits
Number of times Keanu’s horse got confused by his compulsive “whoa’s”: on camera 0, off camera beyond number

47 Ronin – or His White Whoa-ness

Allow me to spare the good people of Hollywood some morning meetings and wig budgets by writing a more direct version of a message they keep hammering into blockbusters. I’ll condense it to fit on flower cards:

“Dear southern African-Americans/Asian nations/Na’vi/ethnicities portrayed by Ben Kingsley,

Your heritage is much easier to digest when it’s being rescued by white people. Please don’t hate; it makes you look super ethnic.

Luv,

Caucasian Moguls On Your Side (CMOYS)”

There. Now if someone could get copies of that to the CMOYS at Warner Bros. and Dreamworks, 2014 just might be the year flower deliveries replace cultural epics featuring white 90’s hearthrobs.

But alas, it’s too late for us to be spared from 47 Ronin, the latest entry in a long line of anglos-to-the-rescue cinebortions. This time around it’s Keanu Reeves donning the white savior mantle, and he manages to do so with less joy than a high school freshman reciting Othello. I can identify no attribute that would qualify him for such a role, other than the fact that his features can pass as mildly Asian. His character, Kai (also referred to as “Half Breed,” with nary a Cher joke), is supposedly the lovechild of a Japanese prostitute and a British soldier. This is of course unverifiable, since there is no mention of his character in the Japanese legend the film is based on. But we should take the movie’s word for it. Because accents.


Say uncle, Japan.

Actually, and unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. The convoluted prologue implies that Kai might be descended from demons, which is super important if we are to believe that he can outsmart a clan of raptor monks or slay a roided up Snuffleupagus. But whether he is part demon or just the product of a mixed race hookup, the movie seems to consider his un-Japanese-ness to be a virtue. That may sound harsh, but consider the evidence. Child Kai has uncanny hunting capabilities that the other samurai aren’t born with. His lip-glossed crush Mika marvels at his Caucasian beauty and sensitivity to nature. He grows up persecuted by his entourage for looking different, but never growls or slams his chopsticks. He speaks in insufferably humble colloquialisms. He’s the only character without a Japanese accent, despite having been raised with everyone else. Of all the samurai bros, he gets the most surfer wispies.

And he’s literally the only white person in the entire film.

Here’s your beside-the-point plot: Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), the master of Kai’s clan, gets framed by Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) for attempting to murder him while he is Asano’s houseguest. How do you frame your host for attempting to murder you? Just have your witch girlfriend (Rinko Kikuchi, the only one who appears to be having any fun) make a spider out of your blood, float over the dude’s bed while he sleeps, and use her octopus-hair to drop it into his mouth. The spider will poop enchanted blood down his throat and induce a hallucination that you’re sexually assaulting his daughter. The rest will take care of itself. I know, right? Hard to believe no one’s thought of it before. Lord Asano is then sentenced to commit seppuku, which is portrayed as performance art suicide on a yoga mat. Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the remaining commander of the samurai – or as they’re now known without a master, the ronin – must spend the rest of the film leading them on a quest for vengeance against Lord Kira before he can marry Asano’s daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki, with perpetual cry-face).


Draw me like one of your valley girls.

So why is Kai’s character even necessary? The answer, aside from better insurance rates and milky backskin, is he is not. By any stretch. This should be Oishi’s story, but because the CMOYS that be don’t believe that Americans can tolerate a screen filled exclusively with Japanese-ities, they’ve summoned their cheapest Tom Cruise understudy. The result is not only an exercise in racism, but a glitzy makeover of an entire culture. There are endless clichéd monologues about nobility and honor. All the extras sport garish, fluorescent robes. Every five to seven minutes there is an eruption of CGI foxes, giants or ghosts. There’s even a cameo by one of Peter Jackson’s cave trolls. This movie is about as authentic as a Yo! Sushi on Fifth Avenue.


It takes a pastel village.

Since it’s based on a famous legend that glorifies suicide, it’s no spoiler to mention that the ronin don’t have many new year’s resolutions in the cards. Such a grim ending requires genuine pathos. But it is impossible to feel the weight of something so tragic (and purportedly altruistic) when we’ve just spent five minutes watching Neo somersault around an ectoplasmic dragon. This is a world where a well-known good guy can infiltrate an enemy palace simply by putting on an Andy Warhol wig. Where demon sword play and fat jokes go hand in hand. In such a world, the notion of seppuku rings more of CMOYS script doctoring than real tradition or honor.

“I will search for you through one thousand worlds and ten thousand lifetimes,” Kai tells Mika, putting some final punctuation to his lily holiness. Given how many white savior movies we’ve already had to endure, I’d say we have about 9,000 lifetimes to go.

Our Rating:
Number of times we thought of that song by The Vapors: 4
Number of times we got wispy-tized: 7
Number of unintentional Michael Bolton impressions: = number of runtime minutes – credits
Number of times Keanu’s horse got confused by his compulsive “whoa’s”: on camera 0, off camera beyond number

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