A samurai is a high-ranking member of the military in feudal Japan. A master swordsman practicing the code of Bushido, it is generally deemed unwise to draw a sword against the highly skilled warrior. He serves his master with absolute loyalty and supreme regard. Although, he is a servant, and the word samurai literally translates to “those who serve,” being a samurai is a title that habitually comes with wisdom and the people’s utmost respect. Their service makes them superior to the common folk.
However, once a samurai is defeated or proven disloyal to the empire, he undergoes voluntarily or obligatorily Seppuku. Seppuku is a ritual act of suicide where the samurai is given a choice to die with honour, after bringing shame to those he swore to protect. Contrary to popular belief, it is a slow and painful way to go. The samurai picks up a sword or knife. He points it to his body and plunges it into his stomach before slicing the sword to the right or left to make the death definitive.
I open my review with this brutal description of a man of honour taking his own life out of shame, not to recite an act you’re all probably already familiar with, but to metaphorically explain what just happened to Keanu Reeves’ career. Make no mistake, Reeves never gained the utmost respect of his audiences, but he was a highly regarded action star in the 1990s. With Point Break, Speed and The Matrix in his resume, Reeves’ career had a lot of potential. His monotonous acting abilities seemed to be overlooked in his favour to the quality of the films he starred in. With the release of the $200 million, soon to be flopping, 47 Ronin, we’ve finally reached the inevitable. A film so bad, it matches the actor’s inability to perform.
Calling this a performance would be an overblown exaggeration. Arnold Schwarzenegger displayed a wider range of facial expressions as a robotic Terminator than the wooden demonstration presented here. Reeves aka “The One” in The Matrix trilogy, is now nicknamed “the half breed,” one of the 47 Ronin, a real-life group of samurai in 18th century Japan, who managed to successfully avenge the murder of their master against preposterous odds. Their legend, courage and loyalty have stood the test of time, only to be unjustly retold in a Hollywood fantasy with repulsive CGI and tasteless dialogue.
Ever since, my initial viewing of Akira Kurosawa’s ultimate samurai epic, Seven Samurai, I’ve taken a liking to the genre, so this film comes as a grave disappointment. Perhaps, I put too much blame on Reeves. The truth is, everyone involved in this project should be ashamed of themselves. If the 47 Ronin were alive today, they’d probably dedicate their last breaths to bringing an end to the lives of all those responsible for reciting their legend so poorly. In that regard, the filmmakers should count themselves lucky they’ll get away with mere critical outrage and inescapable box office losses.