47 Ronin Movie Poster Image

47 Ronin



Lifeless take on classic tale with bloodless martial arts.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Though the movie claims to be about honor and loyalty, it seems to be more about revenge, and treating others as inferior or undesirable. There might have been some teamwork here if the movie had been better made, but few of these characters are barely even identified. Additionally, some could be offended that this classically Japanese story has been presented in English, with a Western director and a Western star. Its only humorous moments include a stereotypical "jolly fat man" character.
Positive role models
The characters are skilled warriors, though their cause is mostly revenge -- in addition to rescuing a woman in peril. There's no real teamwork or honor, and they pay the ultimate price for their efforts.
There's almost no blood in these sword battles; the greatest amount of blood is shown when characters mark their bloody thumbprints next to their names on a scroll. Two characters are beheaded, with no blood shown. Several minor characters are pierced with arrows and appear to die. There are plenty of sword battles, with some mixed martial arts thrown in (kicking, etc.). Characters commit ritual suicide. There's some other fantasy violence by witchcraft as well as monsters. The main character is beaten with clubs, and his cuts and bruises are briefly shown. A man catches on fire. A man is put under a spell, and he has some hallucinations. One of the hallucinations is that he imagines his daughter being raped, though she is fully clothed.
Two characters are shown to be in love, but they never kiss or touch, except when the woman gently tends to the man's wound. Concubines with heavy makeup are shown; these are women that serve men but have less status than a wife. No sex is mentioned, but could be vaguely implied.
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A man is put under a spell, and he has some hallucinations.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that 47 Ronin is based on a famous Japanese story about an event that took place in the 18th century and though the violence is largely bloodless, there are swordfights with mixed martial arts and two beheadings. Characters are pierced with arrows and appear to die. Characters commit ritual suicide. We also see some fantasy violence, such as witchcraft and monsters. Sex is not an issue, but the main male and female characters are shown to be in love, though they barely touch. Some concubines, who wear heavy makeup and serve men, are part of the story. A man is put under a spell, and he has some hallucinations. One of the hallucinations is that he imagines his daughter being raped, though she is fully clothed.

What's the story?

In ancient feudal Japan, an evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and a witch (Rinko Kikuchi) plot to take over a rival province by disgracing its leader, Lord Asano, and turning its samurai warriors into ronin (i.e. masterless samurai). After surviving a year in captivity, Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) bands together the ronin for revenge, and enlists the aid of a mysterious half-breed, Kai (Keanu Reeves), who seems to have special abilities. Together they must stop Lord Kira before he marries Lord Asano's beautiful daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki). Kai has another reason to go into battle: he secretly loves Mika, and she loves him. But can the ronin survive the impossible odds -- and witchcraft -- that lay ahead?

Is it any good?

Following several classic versions of this story -- including Kenji Mizoguchi's 1941 film and the 1962 version with Toshiro Mifune -- this new English-language version seems entirely pointless. Not to mention that it's vaguely insulting, relying on a Western director, Carl Rinsch, and a Western star, Keanu Reeves, to make it appealing to Western audiences.
At the helm, Rinsch turns in a movie that's deadly serious yet entirely lifeless. The action scenes are totally confusing, and several little plot threads are lazily abandoned or sidestepped. (What happened to the samurai who was poisoned by the witch?) The pace is monotonous and numbing. Its only attempt at humor is at the expense of a "jolly fat man," which just goes to underline just how culturally backward the entire project really is. Ultimately, this is an expensive flop that has wasted the talents of its cast.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it exciting or gruesome? How does it leave you feeling? Does visible blood make the violence feel more realistic? How much blood would really be shed during violence like we see on the screen?
  • How do you feel about the idea of a white main character and a white director telling this story? Are non-Japanese allowed to tell a Japanese story? How can different cultures positively represent one another in movies?
  • Is the "jolly fat man" character a stereotype? What is his purpose in the movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:April 1, 2014
Cast:Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi
Director:Carl Rinsch
Studio:Universal Pictures
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Sports and martial arts
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic elements

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Parent of a 13 and 15 year old Written byIsenanao January 2, 2014

Anime Lovers will Love 47 Ronin

Anyone who watches anime with any regularity will LOVE this movie. It is VERY Japanese and will probably not do as well in the North American market as it deserves to because the cultural references will be misunderstood by most. There is a lot in here about honor and loyalty but it is in the Japanese cultural understanding rather than any North American understanding. It is SO Japanese in fact that the only "complaint" I have about the movie is that wedding dress is white rather than red, which seems to be the *only* nod to North American sensibilities. The commission of Seppuku is *implied* more than once. This movie IS violent but our 13 and 15 year old kids loved it and it is one of *very* few movies I would like to see in the theater a second time. If you are an anime lover or have a teen anime lover in your household I highly recommend this movie. Younger kids will find this movie confusing and probably scary.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent Written byDan G. January 3, 2014

Scatterbrained story; it's really all about the violent battles

The movie has very little coherent or interesting plot. It seems to simply be a vehicle by which to display violent battle scenes. The violence is prolific, however not graphic. Little blood, although there is a suicide and a beheading. Those children that would most want to see this movie perhaps should not if they have tendencies towards fighting or violence.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written byAgent_D13 December 28, 2013

Better than they say.

I'm 13 and I went to see this with my friend yesterday. We had seen the reviews and said the reviews aren't always right. For example, the movie 9 was hated by many critics, but I thought it was an incredible movie. So we saw it. It wasn't that bad, I've seen worse movies (*cough The Last Airbender *Cough) Another example, John Carter, critics hated it, we loved it. But nevermind that, I found it strange that Common Sense didn't put a review out till now, I mean, I know they have lives and it's the holiday season, but a representative was on T.V not too long ago! I mean JEEZ! I can understand why they didn't like it, but that's being very picky. I give it 4 stars! Now let's get into the parent's guide. Violence: No blood, 2 decapitations, relatively intense action characters die. It's nothing kids haven't seen in media today. Inapropriate Scenes (S.E Letter after W.): Minor, there is a scene where one character is seen to be H.U.M. letter after O "ing" someone else. Language: One use of the "H" word (Once again, Common sense wouldn't let me write the whole word, yet they do it in their reviews. HYPOCRITICAL MUCH?. That's it. Stuff people buy off the streets: Drinking during a 5 minute pirate scene. I still can't believe Common Sense called this movie "Lifeless". There is action in it. Now yes, it isn't action packed, it does get boring in some parts, but it isn't bland at all. Was the reviewer playing games on their iPhone while "watching" this? I want to add how Common sense blocks all the things in their review when I try to type it. EDIT 1/12/14: It is really pissing me off that there are reviews of people saying this is boring. On reviewer even said that it's Chinese. DO YOUR RESEARCH, THEY'RE JAPANESE! The same reviewer said that the "action scenes are weak" when they really aren't.
What other families should know
Too much violence