Samurais give hero's welcome

Samurais give hero's welcome
Canadian actor Keanu Reeves (C) shares a light moment with Japanese actress Ko Shibasaki (L), actor Hiroyuki Sanada (2nd L), Tadanobu Asano (2nd R) and actress Rinko Kikuchi (R) during a photo session at a press conference to promote their movie "47 Ronin" in Tokyo on November 18, 2013.

At first glance, 47 Ronin looks like yet another Hollywood movie about a lone white man who saves the day for the Asians, just like in The Last Samurai (2003).

After all, the period film set in Japan has Canadian actor Keanu Reeves as the sole Caucasian character (or "half-breed" as he is known in the movie) who acts as the hero and leader to the Japanese warriors.

The story of 47 Ronin is actually well known among the Japanese. Based on a true historical event that took place in 18th-century Japan, it follows the plight of the 47 ronin, or samurai without a leader, who courageously avenged their master's death.

To this day, it is regarded by many Japanese as a shining example of loyalty and honour, with thousands of devotees visiting the Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo every year to pay their respects to the ronin who were buried there.

Of the inclusion of Reeves' character into the story, A-list Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, 53, who plays the major supporting role of top-ranking samurai Oishi, says in English: "I thought it was a great idea to have this half-blood character. A full-on Japanese production wouldn't have thought of it, but this is Hollywood and the character is a good mix of Hollywood and Japanese ideas.

"It's a great opportunity to introduce this story, which is one of the famous tales in Japan, to the rest of the world."

First-time feature film-maker Carl Rinsch, who helmed the US$175-million (S$220-million) Hollywood take on it, says his movie is in the Japanese tradition of chushingura, which is the fictionalised retellings of this famous ronin story.

Says the 36-year-old: "It was our goal to maintain and respect the fundamental emotions and themes of the true history, but to view it through a lens that made it relevant to contemporary audiences.

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