Keanu Reeves might know kung-fu, but does he know his way around a katana? The film star fights his way through a fantastical version of 18th century Japan in 47 Ronin.
In the film, a robe-garbed Keanu plays Kai, a half-Japanese warrior that is freed from slavery and must accompany an outnumbered group of 47 samurai in their plot for revenge. The trailer features sword slashing a-plenty but this isn’t your standard martial-arts action movie. There is a large thread of mysticism running though the film’s samurai tale, with endless monsters and beasts, along with regular samurai-foot soldiers, looking to end Keanu’s quest for vengeance.
It’s been a complicated road for the 47 Ronin both on screen and off, with the drama spilling out from the Japanese pseudo-history and into the production side of the project. The film has been plagued with reshoots, and the budget has been said to exceed 200 million, an unfathomable number for a martial arts film. The film will also be released on Christmas day, a time of year filled with competition just waiting to slice chunks out of Ronin’s film gross. There is also the worthwhile discussion on the ethics of creating a half-white character for a story steeped in Japanese history and myth, just so Keanu can play the lead while a largely Asian cast is sidelined to mostly supporting roles. Questions of race in cinema and film budgeting aside, 47 Ronin looks like a fun bit of counter-programming for the holiday season.