Netflixable? “Blade of the 47 Ronin” is just “Blade,” only sillier

Boy, the things fanboys will sit through just to see Japanese women in short skirts and knee-boots fight it out with samurai swords.

The things screenwriters have to do to set a samurai sword-fighting movie in cheap-to-film-in Budapest. The skills actors make themselves learn just to do a movie that they know will be pretty damned bad, based on the film it’s a sequel to.

“Blade of the 47 Ronin” is a cluttered, obtuse and nonsensical slice of samurai-and-sorcery nonsense that Netflix made as a sequel to a Keanu Reeves fiasco of a few years back, “47 Ronin.” I only gave it a watch because my first thought “Surely not.”

I mean, back when I reviewed the original film, I read up on the piece of 18th century Japanese history that this “legend” is based on. Needless to say, the new film’s three screenwriters didn’t do that.

This supernatural nonsense has more in common with “Blade” and “Highlander” and other sillier-than-sill action films about ancient feuds and battles between good and evil still playing out right under the noses of the modern world.

There’s this ancient busted sword, “the Tengu sword,” a “warrior blade” blended with a “witch blade” that must be reunited “to fulfill it.” That’s a direct quote. Fulfill…it’s destiny, its utility in the battle between ronin “warriors” and “witches?” Perhaps.

Only “the last descendent of the ’47 Ronin'” can accomplish this. Naturally, she (Anna Akana) has no clue about this, being an American in Budapest hustling stolen samurai antiquities and artifacts.

There’s a villain Yurei (Dan Southworth) covets the blade which he needs to carry out a conquest of evil over good. Something like that. Like all evil folks, his agenda’s murky.

Samurai and Onna-musha bugeisha — female “geisha” warriors (you learn something every day) — led by Lord Shinshiro (Mark Dacascos) must fight off legions of evil ninja to secure the blade and the “descendent” and keep the peace.

In Budapest, the ancient “crossroads between East and West,” where all the ronin, bugeishas, villains and their henchmen speak English, perhaps for the benefit of the smart-assed American woman who is their quarry, the one person who can stop all this with her inherited magic.

“Keep telling yourself that, Knockoff Hermione Grainger!”

No, she’s not having this and yes, she has noticed how the swordswomen of this Japanese underworld act, think and dress.

“Anything men can kill, we can kill better!”

There are a lot of characters to try and keep straight, with Teresa Ting, Luna Fujimoto, Chikako Fukayama and stuntwoman/actress Eniko Fulop among them, most of these women swinging swords and sticking the superheroine landing with each slice.

There are scads of menfolk also mixed up in this messy mayhem, which is really only watchable when everybody’s fighting. Mike Moh is the outcast warrior Reo, brought in to aid the opening act murders that set the story in motion.

But he’s not the actor saddled with “I’m here to avenge him. AVENGE!” I only quote that line to give an example of how laughable the dialogue generally is. Is it worse than this plot, with “samurai safehouses” scattered across the world, and virtually no Europeans in sight because they’d be sure to NOTICE all these armed and dangerous Japanese raising hell all around their city?

All over a “magic” sword. The sillies.

Silliest of all may be the millions of Netflixers who fell into the trap of watching “Blade of the 47 Ronin.” Netflix was so enthused by their numbers that they’ve announced another sequel.

Does Keanu get a cut of that?

Rating:  R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual references.

Cast: Anna Akana, Teresa Ting, Mike Moh, Chikako Fukuyama, Mark Dacascos, Dustin Nguyen, Chris Pang, Nino Furuhata, Luna Fujimoto, Dan Southworth, Dai Tabuchio

Credits: Directed by Ron Yuan, scripted by Aimee Garcia, A.J. Mendez and John Swetnam. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:47


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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