47 Ronin

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
47 Ronin Movie Poster Image
Lifeless take on classic tale with bloodless martial arts.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations
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.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byalleiju22 April 2, 2014

Alert: Rape Scene

I wish the quick "what parents need to know" narrative on this site had mentioned the rape scene that takes place after the witch puts a spell on Lord... Continue reading
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, h... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJimmy Brew July 21, 2015
Kid, 8 years old May 23, 2015

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love martial arts

Themes & Topics

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