Keanu Reeves was unlucky in 2013. Besides the failure of “Man of Tai Chi”, his first feature film as a director, the comedian suffered the flop of “47 Ronin”. And the pain associated with this project is not just due to its poor box office results.
47 Ronin : dirty times for Keanu Reeves
Before returning to the front of the stage thanks to John wick and his now iconic killer character, Keanu Reeves goes through several artistically complicated periods. One of them is called 2013.
That year, the star of Matrix unveils his first project as a director, Man of Tai Chi, with which he proclaims his love for martial arts and takes on the role of villain. The feature film is a bitter failure. It only brings in 5.3 million dollars in global revenue for an estimated budget of between 25 and 32 million. In the process, the actor must cash the blockbuster flop 47 Ronin.
Based on an ancestral legend, the film does not hesitate to deviate from it in an attempt to offer a Hollywood spectacle endowed with fantastic elements and punctuated by epic fights. In any case, this is how Variety presents it to announce it in 2009, placing it somewhere between The Lord of the Rings and Gladiator. Comparisons that announce the color ofa feature film that struggles to find its identity, in which Keanu Reeves plays a character created from scratch.
An ancestral legend revisited
The actor lends his features to Kai, an abandoned child born of a relationship between a Japanese peasant woman and an English sailor. Raised by demons in feudal Japan, the young boy is then taken in by Naganori Asano (Min Tanaka), the daimyo of Ako province. Years later, the latter was sentenced to seppuku by the Tokugawa shogun (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) for having attempted to assassinate Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano).
Asano was actually manipulated by the witch Mizuki (Rinko Kinkuchi), who responds to Kira’s orders. The lord wishes to rule over the province of Ako and marry the daimyo’s daughter, Mika (Kō Shibasaki). When the ronins formerly in Asano’s service discover the ploy, they decide to take revenge, led by Ôishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). After rejecting him since their meeting, he will ask for help from Kai, who has not yet revealed the extent of his powers.
A director with too little experience?
During her gestation, the release of 47 Ronin is shifted several times. A situation which suggests chaotic production, which is indeed the case. While he signed his first film, and he has not directed a feature film since, Carl Rinsch knows many disagreements with Universal. The project undergoes rewrites, which gradually erase the director’s primary ambition. As recalled Allocine, its initial goal was to offer an authentic, realistic samurai film and historically consistent.
Little by little, characters disappear, like the one played by Yorick van Wageningen. The budget explodes whenstereoscopic 3D shooting is required. After this decision, Carl Rinsch has no choice but to return certain scenes.
In September 2012, The Wrap reports that the studio has fired the director. Donna Langley, co-director of Universal, takes over and oversees the editing after a series of reshoot performed in London, supposed to put Keanu Reeves more forward during the climax. This is the sequence where Kai fights a dragon, but also a romantic scene, which delays the start of the shooting of Man of Tai Chi.
A source then describes the production of 47 Ronin like a “nightmare”. Another source claims that Carl Rinsch did failed to “control the realization process”. The steps Universal is taking to turn it into entertainment mainstream do not play in favor of the film, however. The feature film totals $ 151.7 million worldwide, of which only 38 relate to the United States. This does not allow him to repay his budget, estimated between 175 and 200 million dollars.