47 RONIN (2013)
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens with a narration on ancient feudal Japan, inhabited by witches and samurai. The land was ruled by a shogun, and the samurai who failed their masters would suffer the shame of becoming ronin. For one to understand the legend of the 47 ronin, one must understand the story behind it.
A boy named Kai is running through the woods. He collapses and falls face first into the creek. He is found by a group of samurai. They notice claw marks on the back of the boy’s head. One samurai, Oishi, tries to push Kai’s face into the water, but Kai fights back and grabs Oishi’s sword. Their master, Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), brings Kai with them to their province Ako. As time passes, Kai develops a relationship with Asano’s daughter, Mika. The rest of the samurai dislike Kai because he is a “half-breed.”
Years later, an adult Kai (Keanu Reeves) is in the woods. The samurai approach him, and they are suddenly attacked by a gigantic beast with huge antlers. The beast runs all across the forest, nearly attacking the samurai Yasuno (Masayoshi Haneda). Kai grabs Yasuno’s sword and sticks it in the beast’s chest as it runs over him. It drags Kai, still holding onto the sword, until the beast falls and dies. Kai gives Yasuno his sword back, but he disrespects him because he is a half-breed. Yasuno cuts off a piece of the beast’s antler. From a distance, Kai spots a white fox with a gold eye and a blue eye.
The samurai return from their trip. Mika (Ko Shibasaki) runs to ask if anyone has been injured. Her father knows who she is looking for. Mika finds Kai elsewhere, finding a wound on his back. She tends to it by wiping it with a rag. Kai knows that they cannot be together because he is not of royal blood and merely a half-breed.
Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), the master of a rival province, visits Ako in preparation for the arrival of the Shogun (Cary-Kiroyuki Tagawa). With him is a witch named Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi). Kai notices her among the concubines and spots her eyes. He reports this to Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), his new master. Oishi dismisses this as Kai being enchanted by a beautiful woman.
A fight is held with one of Kira’s men, dubbed the Lovecraftian Samurai (Neil Fingleton). Yasuno is set to fight him, but Kai and Oishi’s son Chikara (Jin Akanishi) find Yasuno with milky eyes. He’s been bewitched. Kai dons red armor and a mask to duel with Kira’s samurai. Kai engages in the duel with him, but he is defeated and his mask flies off, exposing him to everybody. The Shogun orders the samurai to kill Kai, but Asano intervenes, saying this is on him. Kai is beaten until he is unconscious.
Mizuki senses a weakness in Asano at the moment. She extracts some sort of purple liquid from Kira’s arm and breathes onto it, creating a spider. She slithers to Asano’s room as he sleeps, letting the spider loose. It crawls over his face and releases the liquid onto Asano’s mouth, bewitching him. Mizuki causes Asano to hear Mika screaming and calling out for him. In Asano’s eyes, he sees Kira ravaging his daughter, and he cuts into his back with his sword. Asano is subdued by other men as the bewitchment wears off and sees that Kira is not attacking Mika.
Because he attacked Kira, who was unarmed, the Shogun sentences Asano to death. He allows him to commit seppuku so that he may die as honorably as he lived. Asano tells Oishi he is doing this to preserve their clan and asks him to look out for Mika. The ceremony is held for Asano to go out in a white robe to fulfill his death. Kai is not present, as he is waking up from his beating. He senses, however, that something is wrong. Mika watches as her father sticks a blade into his stomach, and then Oishi, with regret in his eyes, decapitates his master. The Shogun declares that the samurai are now ronin. Two women give Mika a vial of poison to take so she may end her suffering, but she replies that Ako has not fallen yet.
Before the Shogun leaves, he grants Mika a year-long mourning period before she is to be wed to Kira. He also orders Oishi and the samurai to not attempt to seek vengeance for the death of their master. Kira then orders his men to throw Oishi into the pit for fear of retaliation.
A year later, Oishi is pulled out of the pit by his wife Riku (Natsuki Kunimoto) and Chikara. He is tended to and is told that Kira is set to marry Mika soon. Additionally, Kai has been sold into slavery to a Dutch town. Oishi ventures into this town and finds Kai dueling with a large deformed man. Kai defeats the man and decapitates him, to the cheers of everyone around. Oishi steps in, making everyone believe another duel is to take place. The two fight with their swords until Oishi tells Kai that Mika needs his help. They escape.
Kai and Oishi gather up the remaining ronin. Together, they vow to avenge their master and send Kira to Hell. Oishi takes a map and says he will lead them to a village where they will be given swords. The ronin travel to the village of Ueteu where the sword makers reside. Since they work for Kira, they refuse to give the ronin any swords. Kai joins the ronin as they fight the sword makers, and then leads them to a place where they may definitely find swords.
Kai guides the ronin to a temple belonging to the Tengu. This is the place he was running from as a child. He promises to Oishi that they will provide them with swords, but he must never once draw his weapon, regardless of what he sees. Kai goes to speak to the Tengu Lord (Togo Igawa), a man with a face like a snake. He requests the sword that is stuck in the ground, and the master tells him to simply take it. He begins to taunt Kai about his childhood, while Oishi is in the same room as the other Tengu. One ronin pulls out his sword, and Oishi watches as the Tengu attack his men, and he never once draws his weapon. Kai fights with the master until he takes the sword and nearly decapitates him. Kai finds Oishi and tells him that they have been granted their swords because he passed his test and never took out his sword. What he saw was an illusion, and his men are safe.
Mizuki disguises herself as a geisha and infiltrates a nearby village. She seduces a fellow ronin right before the ronin happen upon this village and are ambushed. Mizuki unleashes her fire powers to attack the ronin while Kira’s men join in the fight. The Lovecraftian Samurai also steps in, killing some of the ronin while others are burned alive. As soon as it appears that she has wiped out most of the ronin, she takes Oishi’s sword and leaves.
Kai and Oishi tend to the surviving ronin. One fat ronin, Basho (Takato Yonemoto), confesses to Kai that as a child, he would throw stones at him. Kai says he knew it was him because he saw his belly sticking out from behind the trees. Basho apologizes to him before dying. Oishi regrets not having gone after Kira after their master’s death.
Mizuki goes to Mika’s room as she sleeps. She taunts her with the supposed death of Kai, Oishi, and the rest of the ronin. Mizuki slips her a knife, saying she promised not to harm her, but whatever Mika does is none of Mizuki’s concern.
Before the ronin make their final stand, Yasuno apologizes to Kai for his disrespect and shows gratitude to him for saving him from the beast. He gives him a sword and bows to him. They and the rest of the ronin then sign their names on a scroll and mark it with their blood to commemorate what they will do in honor of their master. Oishi declares, “We are now 47.” On their trip back to Ako, they encounter a band of performers. They recognize Oishi and the ronin from their previous visit to Ako. Oishi pleads for their help.
Kai and Oishi sneak into Ako with the performers as Kira and Mika’s wedding is about to begin. The rest of the ronin sneak in by climbing the walls and killing Kira’s guards. A performance is put on with Oishi in disguise. He moves closer to Kira before a battle ensues between his men and the ronin. The ronin attack and fight back as Kira runs away with Mika. Mizuki sneaks away in the chaos. The Lovecraftian Samurai goes to attack until a ronin throws a bomb. It explodes and destroys the large samurai.
As Kira and Mika run, she pulls out the knife that Mizuki gave her and she lunges at Kira. Several guards arrive on the scene, giving Mika an opportunity to run. Oishi finds Kira and begins to fight him. Meanwhile, Kai reunites with Mika and embraces her. They are cornered by Mizuki. Kai says he is not afraid of her, even though she says he should be. She then takes the form of a large serpent-like dragon, lunging toward Kai as he draws his sword to fight her. She nearly kills him numerous times, until she thinks she’s taken him down. Kai sees Mizuki ready to kill Mika, but he grabs his sword and rapidly moves in time to drive his sword into Mizuki’s head. She reverts to her human form before she dies. Elsewhere, Oishi’s fight with Kira culminates in a room. Oishi holds a knife to Kira’s stomach and says, “Know now the depth of my master’s courage.” He sticks the knife in Kira, and then decapitates him. Oishi brings Kira’s severed head before everybody, ending the battle.
The ronin travel to the grave of Lord Asano, now having avenged his death and allowing him to rest in peace.
Oishi speaks to the Shogun and acknowledges his crimes. He only asks that his men be respected for their actions. The Shogun says that while their crimes are punishable by hanging, he respects the honor in their avenging Lord Asano. He allows them to commit honorable suicide. Oishi sheds a tear, as does Mika.
Kai and Mika share one last moment together before he must die. They promise to find each other in the next life. They share one last kiss.
The ceremony for the ronin’s seppuku takes place. The Shogun calls Chikara out and allows him to live so that he may carry on Oishi’s bloodline. Kai and Mika look at each other one last time as he sticks the knife in his stomach. Later, Mika is on a bridge reading a message from Kai, reiterating his promise to her that he will search for her in whatever world she is in next.
The narrator states that the legend of the 47 ronin lived on for generations. The text at the end states that every December 14th, thousands gather to the graves of the ronin to honor what they did. The film is inspired by their story.