While many people know of Keanu Reeves from films like The Matrix and Speed, what people might not know about him is that he is of mixed ethnic origin that features a bit of native Hawaiian and Chinese. While many Asian actors seemed to get pigeon-holed in the parts offered to them by Hollywood, Reeves has been able to play everything from a southern lawyer in The Devil’s Advocate to a surfer in Point Break.
However, Reeves is now taking part in an Asian-inspired film with his recent project, 47 Ronin. Not just any martial arts film, 47 Ronin embodies an ancient Japanese tale that is said to have taken place in the early 18th century.
Reeves plays the role of Kai, a former slave that was outcast and rejected only to be called upon to help seek justice.
Kai is ridiculed as being a “half breed” because of his Japanese and British background, which makes for the perfect role for Keanu Reeves since he is also of mixed nationality. Kai is the offspring of a British sailor that coupled with a Japanese peasant and is not only illegitimate, but also thought of as inferior to the warriors of Ronin, a group of highly skilled samurai.
While rejected from the group and enslaved, a fierce battle ensues between the Ronin and a warlord. Ultimately, the warlord kills the master of the group and banishes the rest of the 47 members. The group seeks out the help of Kai to get vengeance on the warlord, Lord Kira, for killing their master.
As Kai takes on the role of helping this group, audiences can see that there is much more to this film than just your standard samurai and martial arts flick. The group is not just banished and driven from their homes, but they also become witness to a much deeper evil than what they initially thought they were dealing with.
The integration of mythical creatures, special effects, witchcraft and even shape shifters bring this film into a different category for moviegoers. Many fantasy films have done well historically at the box office, including films like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
However, just because a film may have some fantasy elements doesn’t necessarily guarantee a box office smash. For instance, while Jack The Giant Slayer seemed to be a no-brainer in terms of likability due to its special effects, the film did poorly at the box office and came with some harsh reviews by critics.
What makes 47 Ronin a bit different is the mix of two separate well-loved genres in film. Martial arts films are beloved by many, whether it’s the comedic style of Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour films or the dramatic tones and romantic love stories in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Mixing a martial arts film with state-of-the-art special effects and mythical creatures is sure to offer box office gold. Reeves plays the role of an underdog that goes on a journey to become the hero of the pack in a way that leaves audiences rooting for his success. There is a love story entwined in his journey, which only adds to the depth of the character and the audience’s hope for his ultimate success.
Rinko Kikuchi plays the role of the witch in the film, basically the right hand of the evil warlord. She is not only a powerful sorceress, but she also has shape-shifting abilities that culminate during a battle in which she transforms into a dragon.
However, it’s not just the characters that help this film come to life – it’s also the amazing costumes and environments. The landscapes combined with the special effects can take audiences to a whole new world and, with it being offered in 3D, it is definitely a must-see for those looking for an action-packed film with a great storyline.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic elements.