The weird Keanu Reeves samurai film everyone’s watching on Netflix
(Credit: Governo do Estado de São Paulo)

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The weird Keanu Reeves samurai film everyone's watching on Netflix

We’ve seen Keanu Reeves dodge impossible bullets in The Matrix and become a slick assassin in the John Wick series. But did you know that our beloved action hero also took a detour into the realm of samurai warriors, witches, and giants back in 2013? Enter 47 Ronin, the definitively weird action flick that has captured the attention of Netflix viewers worldwide.

A reinterpretation of real events that actually took place in 18th century Japan, currently, 47 Ronin is being watched by millions on Netflix, and you can join in too!

Directed by Carl Rinsch and written by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini, 47 Ronin combines elements of historical fiction, fantasy, and good ol’ samurai action. 

The story of 47 Ronin draws inspiration from Japanese folklore and follows a group of samurai warriors seeking revenge for their fallen master. Led by the enigmatic Kai, played by Reeves, this band of outcasts embarks on a quest to restore honour to their fallen samurai master’s name. As they navigate a world filled with mystical creatures, treacherous sorcery, and epic battles, the ronin must prove their worth and fulfil their sworn duty.

The film boasts an ensemble cast. Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada portrays Oishi, the leader of the 47 Ronin, with remarkable intensity. Rinko Kikuchi, known for her outstanding performance in Pacific Rim, takes on the role of a witch who poses a formidable threat to our heroes.

Fun fact: The Mako Mori test is named after Kikuchi’s character in Pacific Rim. The test involves a set of criteria created to evaluate gender equality in movies or television shows. The test consists of the following criteria: at least one female character must have her own narrative arc independent of a male character’s storyline.

While 47 Ronin has not inspired any such benchmark, relying on uneven CGI, shoddy creature effects, and an even weirder storyline falling short of being the visual spectacle it could have been. But it is still a standard action flick fans of the genre can enjoy even though the immersive CGI fun will be missing on your home screens.

Speaking to Collider in 2013, Reeves had talked about the action in the film, “Action-wise, late last year I started picking up katana, and we had some training. Hiroyuki Sanada is pretty fantastic with a sword—films like The Twilight Samurai, The Last Samurai. I kinda grew up with Sonny Chiba,” before proceeding to praise his  John Wick: Chapter 4 co-star and exemplary martial artist Sanada, “..he’s so fantastic. What’s great about working with someone who’s so experienced is he’s very generous with help. “Look here, put your balance here, move like this, checking form.” He’s great with all of the cast and everyone, he’s making sure everything’s right. How do you wear your swords? He’s [Kuranosuke] Oishi. He’s this guy who’s looking out for everybody.”

The film was noted as one of Hollywood’s biggest box office bombs of 2013 by Variety. But it has found a new life on the streaming giant. In 2022, a sequel was released on the platform tagged as a Netflix original, Blade of the 47 Ronin. A third part is also in the works.