Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Blade of the 47 Ronin

It is pretty clear from this film, Samurai are far more skilled than ninjas. However, ninjas attack with superior numbers, like in the dozens or hundreds. Those ninjas hordes obey the commands of a witch who has targeted the descendants of the loyal samurai-turned-ronin, who avenged their lord back in the Edo era. It is about as loose as sequels get, but the hack-and-slash martial arts certainly entertains throughout Ron Yuan’s Blade of the 47 Ronin, which releases today on DVD and Netflix.

Supposedly, this is a sequel to the disastrous Keanu Reeves version of
The 47 Ronin, but feel free to pretend it is a sequel to the Kon Ichikawa or Kenji Mizoguchi adaptations, because the connection between films is tenuous, at best. In the present day, samurai clans operate in secret, based in Budapest, supposedly because it is a key juncture between East and West, but it also happens to be affordable to shoot there. The descendants of the 47 Ronin guard the magically divided half of a mythic sword that holds a fateful prophecy. The witches hold the other half, but Yurei, the most powerful warlock has gone rogue.

He thought he had killed all the Ronin’s descendants, but there was a secret progeny out there somewhere. Unfortunately, the punky, resentful Luna does not inspire much confidence. She has come to Budapest to sell her late, estranged father’s sword, which is obviously priceless. Luna is a pain, but virtuous Lord Shinshiro protects her anyway. That duty primarily falls to his Bugeisha (samurai warrior woman) Onami, who enlists help from her old confidant, Reo, a ronin, who was forced out of Shinshiro’s service due to a past disgrace.

Scholars of Japanese history and literature will probably be scandalized by the way
Blade trades on the names of the 47 Ronin, which is fair enough. However, if you accept the film as its own stand-alone entity, it is pretty fun, admittedly in a meathead kind of way. Ron Yuan (the actor, not appearing in-front of the camera this time around) clearly understands how to frame a fight scene and he is not intimidated by a little blood splatter. The swordplay is often brutal, but it looks great.

Yuan also has the benefit of two major action stars, who still clearly have their stuff. Mark Dacascos is cool and commanding as Lord Shinshiro, while Dustin Nguyen is all kinds of steely playing Lord Nikko. Stylistically, his clan is very different from Shinshiro’s but they are allied in honor. They both have plenty of highly cinematic fight scenes, but Teresa Ting and Michael Moh (Bruce Lee in
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) have even more. Their athleticism is impressive and they some appealing comrade-in-arms rapport going on.

Anna Akana is convincingly annoying as Luna, maybe even more than she needs to be. Dan Southworth has a weird presence as Yurei, but that sort of works for a super-villain. As a veteran of the
Mortal Kombat and Power Rangers franchises, he also certainly knows his way around a fight scene.

might have been better off not positioning itself as a sequel to 2013 film. It is definitely a scrappy production (with maybe 1/100th of its predecessor’s budget), but its action direction is considerably better. The body count is high, but apparently that doesn’t raise eyebrows too much in wild Budapest. Recommended for fans of Dacascos, Nguyen, and over-achieving straight-to-DVD sequels, Blade of the 47 Ronin releases today (10/25) on DVD and Netflix.