When it comes to the topic of Keanu Reeves and kickass martial arts, The Matrix is probably the first movie you think of. That movie established Reeves as an action badass who also knew his way around a gun, which led quite naturally to the actor landing the title role in John Wick. However, before Keanu ever picked up a gun to avenge his dead dog or jacked back into the Matrix for one final adventure, he starred in 47 Ronin, an ambitious action fantasy film that is leaving Netflix after October 15.
Part of what makes 47 Ronin so interesting is the high kung-fu pedigree possessed by most of the cast.
What is 47 Ronin about? The film presents a fictional tale of some historical 18th-century samurai who serve as the titular ronin, which means “masterless samurai.”
Keanu Reeves plays a mixed-blood warrior who reluctantly helps the samurai of a dead lord as they fight for justice in a world filled with outsized threats. In addition to clashing with skilled, sword-bearing warriors, our heroes must contend with giants, witches, and other fantasy creatures that make this movie feel like the child of The Last Samurai and The Lord of the Rings.
Part of what makes 47 Ronin so interesting is the high kung-fu pedigree possessed by most of the cast. Sure, it’s a little weird seeing the very white Keanu Reeves in a tale of 18th-century Japanese warriors, but he has plenty of experience making onscreen martial arts look cool.
And he is surrounded by a great cast (including Hiroyuki Sanada and Tadanobu Asano) which has extensive experience with Hong Kong martial arts movies, which means that the action in this film should please even the biggest action snobs in your crew of film-loving friends.
47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, leaves Netflix October 15.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few faces besides Keanu Reeves that Western audiences are likely to recognize in 47 Ronin. For example, Sixteen Candles star Gedde Watanabe appears in this movie as well as Yorick van Wageningen (who should be familiar to anyone who loves Chronicles of Riddick). We particularly enjoyed seeing Masayoshi Haneda, and he dazzles even more here than he did in Westworld.
Aside from the great cast, one of the reasons we recommend you stream 47 Ronin is that the movie manages to have style that matches its ambitious conception. From the very beginning, the goal of this film was to take some of the over-the-top fantasy ideas and creatures from movies such as The Lord of the Rings films and blend them with the over-the-top action and intense character work of movies such as Gladiator. The final result is a successful hybrid, and the movie we got is decidedly unlike any other fantasy or action movie we have ever seen.
For Keanu Reeves fans, the film provides yet another example of the actor adding charm and style to perfectly complement his kung-fu moves…
Unfortunately, ambitious ideas and even a headlining megastar like Keanu Reeves weren’t enough on their own to translate to a box office success for 47 Ronin. At somewhere between $175 to $225 million, the movie certainly had the budget necessary to bring its big ideas to life. The studio was hoping for a suitably large box office return, but the movie went on to only gross $151.8 million, officially making it a flop for Universal Pictures.
While many audiences slept on 47 Ronin when it first premiered, most of the critics who did see the movie didn’t know quite what to make of everything. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently has a critical rating of 16 percent, with many of the critics complaining that the characters in the movie are too one-dimensional.
To this, we have a simple rebuttal: most heroes in the best action films are one-dimensional, and as long as that dimension is crowd-pleasing, it’s all good. Is there anyone out there who loses sleep about John Wick or Neo needing to have more depth or more scenes where the characters talk through their feelings? Simply put, we watch kickass movies because we want to see characters kick ass, and Keanu and the rest of the cast are great at doing just that in 47 Ronin.
Ultimately, 47 Ronin is a movie that fires on all cylinders. For Keanu Reeves fans, the film provides yet another example of the actor adding charm and style to perfectly complement his kung-fu moves, and for action fans in general, this is a scene where each new character and fight scene is more awesomely outrageous than the one before it. Just don’t forget to use your own martial arts reflexes to hit “play” and stream this movie on Netflix quickly before it disappears after October 15.