2013’s “47 Ronin” came and went without making a big dent at the box office and missing the Keanu Reeves renaissance train set in motion by “John Wick” by a year. Still, the legend of the 47 Ronin is a timeless tale of warrior heroism that “Blade of the 47 Ronin” continues.
Directed by Ron Yuan, “Blade of the 47 Ronin” is an absolute blast with some surprisingly clever twists in the samurai mythos it builds upon. Even nine years after its 2013 predecessor, “Blade of the 47 Ronin” is a second chapter of such power as to beg for a part three immediately!
Yoshi Sudarso plays Sun, with Daniel Southworth playing Yurei, while Chris Pang portrays Lord Arai and Chikako Fukuyama portrays Aya with Akira Koieyama in the role of Ikeda.
300 years after “47 Ronin”, the samurai continue to operate from the shadows in the modern world, with Budapest acting as their key base of operations.
The samurai are tasked with protecting the supernaturally powerful half of the Witch Blade, with a clan of ninja carrying the other half. A young woman named Luna unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of the conflict, learning from the samurai that she is the last living descendent of the legendary 47 Ronin, and the possible avatar to fulfill the prophecy of the witch’s defeat.
With the war between the two clans coming to a head, Luna joins forces with the samurai to defeat the witches and fulfill her samurai destiny.
“Blade of the 47 Ronin” is Action-Packed!
“Blade of the 47 Ronin” might have nothing approaching the budget of the original “47 Ronin”, but that does little to harm the movie. In many ways, that actually works to its advantage as a reversal of the era the two movies represent.
With “47 Ronin” set right in the middle of the samurai era, “Blade of the 47 Ronin” turns the surviving samurai of modern times into warriors almost more akin to ninjas, training and operating in secret even as the code of bushido guides them.
In any case, the clandestine nature of the movie’s contemporary samurai doesn’t result in it skimping on the action in the least. While sparing a little more necessary time to get Luna up to speed with a katana, “Blade of the 47 Ronin” is as fast-paced as its predecessor and its action scenes a sight to behold. Like the characters that make up the story, the movie’s ensemble cast each bring their own unique energy signature to the film.
Ensemble Cast Brings the Thunder
Mark Dacascos was simply born to play sagely warriors like Lord Shinshiro, leading the Ronin with a laser-accurate focus that is mirrored in the somewhat darker methods of Dustin Nguyen’s Lord Nikko. Daniel Southworth is kept a bit more in the background as the sinister Yurei, though that’s clearly by design once his prominence increases.
As the Ronin’s would-be prophesied chosen warrior, Anna Akana’s foul-mouthed pickpocket Luna knows full well she’s out of her element in training to fight alongside the Ronin. Even as her skill improves, the movie is cognizant of where Luna’s real strengths lie, going so far as to keep that a secret from viewers until the 11th hour.
Avoiding spoilers, Luna ends up embodying a very different kind of ally to the Ronin than they expect, something Akana capitalizes on greatly in her added role as the comic relief of “Blade of the 47 Ronin”.
Mike Moh and Teresa Ting are the All-Stars
In the movie’s many action scenes, Reo and Onami are the true breakout characters, both done proud by Mike Moh and Teresa Ting.
Seeing Mike’s literal knack for “Street Fighter” moves in “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”, he rivals even the number of “wow” moments he pulled off there in Reo’s kicking and sword-slashing fight scenes.
Teresa Ting’s performance as Onami is also astonishing in her action scenes and riveting in her portrayal of a young warrior yearning to become a leader. She and Luna couldn’t be greater opposites on the surface in terms of personality and fighting skill, but their arcs are much more directly paralleled than they seem on the surface.
The Finale Moves a Mile-a-Minute
While there’s a good flow of action throughout “Blade of the 47 Ronin”, the backend is where it really turns the dial up high.
By the third act, a Ronin’s blade slashing an enemy or a foot in the midst of a kick’s circular arc in almost every other frame, is never less than enthralling to behold.
The final showdown in Yurei’s stronghold is as good as it gets in terms of blade-based action scenes.
Yurei, the kind of villain who can only be defeated by multiple enemies, holds his own against the best efforts of Reo, Onami, and Luna, and while you’ll get your katana fight scene fix and then some, the resolution to it all is a very cleverly set up rimshot that fully earns a round of applause on set-up and execution.
Sequels like “Blade of the 47 Ronin” always face an uphill battle in the comparison shadow of its bigger budgeted predecessor. Then again, in this golden era of direct-to-video (or, in this case, streaming) action, “Blade of the 47 Ronin” is happy to shrug that off for a fun, freshened-up, contemporary samurai adventure instead.
One can only assume that the Ronin will return again after the end of the movie, and that’s only partially due to the set up for the third installment that it lays out.
With Ron Yuan’s direction, the movie’s excellent action scenes, and an ensemble of warriors that are a blast to see do their thing, “Blade of the 47 Ronin” is the “Undisputed 2” of DTV samurai movies.
- “Language!” –Lord Shinshiro (every time Luna swears.)
- “I’ve been on my own for years, so I don’t think I need the protection of a John Wick fanboy.” –Luna (to Lord Shinshiro. Mark Dacascos, of course, played the villainous John Wick fanboy ‘Zero’ in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”!)
- The movie was initially believed to take place 300 years in the future, before being clarified that it is set 300 years after the original “47 Ronin”.
- The movie was shot in Budapest, Hungary.
- Teresa Ting is a practitioner of Shaolin kung fu, modern Wushu, and Taekwondo.
- Mark Dacascos and Daniel Southworth previously played Kung Lao and Kenshi in season 2 of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”, while Mike Moh and Akira Koieyama were both in “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” as Ryu and Gouken.