Universal Pictures spent $175 million on 47 Ronin. On what, the catering? You don't gamble that much cash on a first-time director and a washed-up actor, not in the real world. That's a mistake of mythic proportions, as mythic as any of the witchcraft and warlording-around on all its tacky, gaudy show in this lumbering fantasy epic. As dour as an overcast day in Belfast and feeling almost as long, 47 Ronin is a near-interminable slog through the most tiresome of stories, the kind which needs only the liveliest filmmaking in order to succeed, since it's not even formulaic, it is the very formula on which formulaic films are based. Carl Rinsch instead drowns his film in grandstanding sincerity, with cheap, shiny visuals, a bombastic and utterly disposable score, and line after line of woefully wooden acting. It's all in English too, representing the kind of crass desecration of Japanese culture that the film seems to aim for with every decision. I'm making it sound like a lot more fun than it is, actually. It's not fun at all. Not even the stupendously bad visual effects are worth a giggle (there's not a single laugh to be had in the whole dreary thing). It's the film version of Keanu Reeves, who, as it happens, is also this very film's star! Reeves has always been a chore to watch, and here he plays a demon, which is pretty stupid, since Reeves has enough trouble playing human beings, never mind demons. Rinko Kikuchi has a better time (and so do we) as a shape-shifting witch, who goes about her clandestine mischief with the utmost ceremony, in case we hadn't noticed her bright green costumes and the tendency for shit to hit the shoji every time she's nearby. But still, it's hard to shake the feeling that every member of this film's sorry Japanese cast can't have been paid enough to star in such an insult to their heritage, no matter what cut of the $175m they bagged. You'd hope Universal won't cough up the same for a sequel, but then you'd have hoped they wouldn't have done so for the first one anyway. If they do a sequel called 0 Ronin, I'll be happy(-ish). Half a star for maybe making me react in some form once or twice, but also maybe not.