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Film Review: 47 Reasons To Watch ’47 Ronin’

47 ronin

Yes, you read the headline correctly. 47 Ronin is unabashedly bad, sure, but I can’t think of a better reason to get your ass to the movie theater. Put differently, I can think of 47 reasons why you should go see Keanu Reeves’ newest “film.”

47. To attempt to get to the bottom of one of pop culture’s everlasting mysteries: Keanu Reeves. Like Nicolas Cage (a subject tackled in the most recent Community), Keanu Reeves keeps making movies… and apparently enough people keep seeing them, because he continues to get jobs, in wackier and wackier roles. Sure, he spoke (a term I use loosely) to a generation as Ted Theodore Logan in the most righteous Bill & Ted series, and yes, found himself in one of the most cultural significant films ever with The Matrix, and thrilled audiences the world over as washed up QB Shane Falco in The Replacements. But you’d be forgiven for wishing he’d gotten replaced in every other film on his disturbingly lengthy resume. Academics and critics the world over have tried and failed to tackle this conundrum, but Keanu Reeves is one of the most fascinating, terrifying, weird, bland figures in Hollywood, and 47 Ronin may be the zenith of this particular question: Who (or What) Is Keanu Reeves And Why Can’t I Stop Paying To See Him Perform?

46. Keanu Reeves was born in Lebanon, but his mother was British and his father was Hawaiian (with a tad of Chinese and Portuguese ancestry). So naturally, he was tabbed to play the half-Japanese, half-white hero at the heart of 47 Ronin.

45. It makes Gladiator, Noah and all Russell Crowe films, seem like living history. While the heart of the 47 Ronin tale is kind of there (47 samurais are left without a leader following its lord’s forced ritual suicide return two years later to enact retribution for their former leader)… it adds drastically supernatural undertones, and invents Keanu Reeves’ loner, racial hodgepodge main character and hero. A necessity.

46. In one of the opening scenes, once Kai (Keanu Reeves’ singular hero) is fully grown, taking on some horned, 6-eyed beast, I swear he’s wearing blue jeans under his samurai robes.

45. With the entire east coast windswept and under constant threat of snow, it’s nice to see a film in a constant state of spring…

44. …Except when Kai and the other Ronin arrive at the villainous Lord Kira’s, when yes, it’s blustery and snowy. This is like a sweet reminder that you’re NOT out in the cold.

43. To see literal cool breeze over mountains, the meaning behind Keanu’s infamous Hawaiian first name.

42. You can arrive late, and it might improve  the film. Rare is the illustrious cinematic marvel that doesn’t require you to watch from the opening credits to the end without confusing you to no end. In fact, grabbing a beer and showing up a few minutes into the festivities, which I may or may not have done, was exactly what this movie needed. Shave off some exposition, and it makes the film a little less obvious and predictable because of it. For like 3 scenes.

41. For the aforementioned reasons, 47 Ronin is also a splendid film in which to take frequent and noisy bathroom breaks.

40. Aren’t you tired of sitting through GREAT movies crafted to be droll Oscar bait? Around Christmas and the New Year is a treacherous time to be at the cineplex. You could witness a life-changing film, a gut-busting performance, a piece of art that might actually make you a better person. Gosh, that sounds so exhausting. 47 Ronin is the antidote to such high-minded endeavors like Awards ceremonies, unless you’re planning a trip to the Razzies. 47 Ronin is the perfect change of pace to Judi Dench and the Coen Brothers.

39. This is actually a purdy movie. The FX are pretty cool, and it has some wonderful scenery, even if it’s clearly bogus. Also…

38. THERE ARE MONSTERS. Ones with big teeth, some with more than 2 eyes (more than 5 eyes even!), antlers, others that can fly, shape-shifters, magic, the whole shebang.

37. If you see 47 Ronin, you can join the national discussion of the film’s many merits, and write blog posts as serious and high-minded as this one.

36. You’ll be left out if you’re not the only one who hasn’t seen this epic.

35. Witness another film that riffs on “The One” persona that Keanu Reeves is living on. Imagine a real-life scenario where Keanu Reeves would be “the one” to solve the problem. Come back to me when you do.

34. For Hiroyuki Sanada, the talented Japanese actor you saw in The Last Samurai, The Wolverine, LOST, Rush Hour 3, Speed Racer, Sunshine and apparently ABC’s Revenge. This movie should be Sanada’s, not Reeves, and if you time your bathroom breaks correctly, you can rewrite history as gloriously as Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini have done with this screenplay.

33. Keanu is as stone-faced and expressionless as you’ve always seen him, even when promising to search for Mika over 1,000 worlds and 10,000 lifetimes in the emotional climax of the film. Acting opposite “The Wall” with any sort of competency should be rewarded amply.

32. For excuses to read Keanu Reeves’ Wikipedia page to learn the minutiae of a not-quite American hero. He has dyslexia, by the way.

31. To watch the quite obviously definitive version of the Forty-seven Ronin legend. There have been six other Japanese films chronicling the famous events that are extremely sacred and important to Japanese culture. Thankfully, the seventh involves Keanu Reeves.

30. According to IMDB (slightly more accurate than this movie), 5 Japanese actors were cast alongside Keanu to make it more authentic. 5. In a movie about 47 Japanese samurai. See it for its cunning sense of realism.

29. To witness director Carl Rinsch’s director debut, a future star of Hollywood. I’m not being facetious. The guy has visual flair, and a knack for finding the right lead. Okay, so it’s probably not going to happen.

28. Ko Shibasaki is a babe. She’s also the love interest and not a completely helpless damsel in distress, thankfully.

27. It’s actually a lot of fun.

26. You’ll want to move to Japan, and I could fashion an entirely different (and lengthier) blog post about why that’s a good thing.

25. Keanu is sporting a ‘Ronin’ beard.

24. Hogun gets screentime. Who? Exactly. The forgotten member of the Warriors Three in the Thor franchise, is played by Tadanobu Asano. The Japanese actor plays the villain here, and shows that he deserves more than being shoved off to a different realm in the first 13 seconds of a flick.

23. BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS! Or was, and say what you want about 47 Ronin, but there isn’t a more Christmas-y movie that was released on December 25th. It’s about family, loyalty, magic, and gift giving. Even if that gift might mean a sword through your chest, and that loyalty incurs revenge and ritual suicide, these eternal themes ring far truer than the drug-addled excesses of Wolf of Wall Street or the trying-too-hard Secret Life of Walter Mitty or the evidence that Earth lost a bet (Grudge Match). There’s also snow in this movie. SNOW.

22. To reward a film that has the tagline, “This Christmas, seize eternity.”

21. To laugh/cry at such a waste and spectacular Box Office failure. Hold your pants/hats/sanity: THIS MOVIE COST ANYWHERE BETWEEN $175-$225 MILLION DOLLARS TO MAKE. Seriously?! I thought this was a misprint… but I read several articles to corroborate the facts. It’s as if this movie exists to let The Lone Ranger save face. Who thought this was that good of an idea? The marketing was nigh nonexistent for a movie of such enormity, but its massive delays, creative turmoil and myriad other problems, left Universal one choice: leave it on the doorstep of America on Christmas Day, like a flaming paper bag full of… ahem.

20. For watching perhaps Keanu Reeves’ last starring role. Ha! He’s filming a movie called John Wick, where he plays a character named John Wick. He’s also in pre-production on Passengers, a film where Keanu Reeves’ spaceship malfunctions and he wakes up from his sleeping chamber 90 years before anyone else. This seems like a missed opportunity: Keanu Reeves would’ve killed as a sleeping passenger. Either way, Keanu Reeves’ career is clearly indestructible.

19. To cling onto the beauty of Christmas. Back to the Christmas theme: in the film, Kai is shunned from the rest of the Ronin and townsfolk, because he’s not 100% Japanese (he’s truly 0%). In other words, he’s not allowed to play in their Reindeer games because he’s different, but one foggy Christmas Eve, Oishi/Santa calls upon Kai to save the day. And (SPOILERS), he kinda does.

18. Bird people. Keanu/Kai was raised by a magical/creepy isolationist woodland group of people with beak-like noses and bird-like eyes.

17. To take your bad movie night on the road, and out of the house. Expand your horizons.

16. So you can puff out your chest (like one of Keanu’s bird parents) and gloat to your friends that you’ve already seen this classic, when it arrives on DVD, Blu-Ray and the internet, and more people realize what a treasure it is.

15. For the trailers. I missed them, but they may have been the most important fifteen minutes of the movie. I don’t know.

14. Rinko Kikuchi. You may know her from Pacific Rim (or from her introduction to most U.S. audiences in Babel), where she was an able action hero and not so much of a love interest for Charlie Hunnam (not that that was her fault). She’s more at home here, as the cleverly named “Witch,” who morphs into various monsters and animals and chews scenery as if she was one. She’s easily the best part of the movie. And that’s saying a lot.

13. To wonder at how or why Keanu Reeves got the lead role in 47 Ronin in the first place. I thought for sure he was a producer, or maybe drew a doodle on one of the drafts of the script (if there was one). But no: Keanu Reeves got this movie all because of his acting talent and drawing power.

12. To take a break from using your brain. If you’re one of those people who do Sudoku while “relaxing,” 47 Ronin isn’t for you (unless you bring a Sudoku puzzle with!). 47 Ronin hammers plot points home with the subtlety of an anvil crushing Wile E Coyote. When we see a white fox with two different colored eyes… and then see the aforementioned Witch with those same multi-colored eyes… instead of hoping we’d make the connection, we get a flashback to the very same fox, to pummel the inference into your head with the force of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

11. Because Wolf of Wall StreetSaving Mr. BanksFrozen and Desolation of Smaug are sold out.

10. Because you’re related to one of the people involved in the production.

9. Because you’re drunk.

8. Because you’re high.

7. Because you’re an agoraphobic, and simply escaping the confines of your prison/apartment is an achievement.

6. To mentally prepare yourself for hearing “Ronin” in sentences, because people will be lauding Lee Pace’s performance as the villainous Ronan the Accuser in the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.

5. It made me laugh a few times, genuinely. Maybe because of a fat comedic relief character there precisely for that reason. Yeah, I hate me too.

4. You’ve seen every other movie at the movies or on Netflix/Hulu/On Demand.

3. To learn one of life’s primordial truths: Keanu Reeves IS America. Born abroad and forged in a melting pot of genes, blessed by looking decent in jeans, and with a career likely manifested by a genie, Keanu defies comparison, yet encapsulates our entire society. He is a living embodiment of the American dream: in lieu of talent, the man manufactures a career based on looks, a brand-y name, sheer force of will and happenstance. A rich man’s Lou Diamond Phillips, Keanu makes no sense, and neither does this reason.

2. 47 Ronin can help you escape from your family, your work, your sure-to-fail New Year’s resolutions, and your miserable lives for 118 minutes. No easy task.

1. To get yourself ready for the inevitable sequel(s): 48 RONIN. Or 47 RONIN X 2. Or 47 BRO-NIN. Or 47 RONIN-G ON EMPTY. Or 47 RONIN AND A BITCH AIN’T ONE.