Film: Japanese legend gets Hollywood remake starring Keanu Reeves

Posted by Sam Bouchat on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 5:14 pm.

The Akō Vendetta, a hugely well-known historical event in Japan, occurred in 1703 (during the Edo period). A group of samurai planned out and exacted revenge for their dead master, who had been forced to commit suicide about a year earlier after attacking another high-ranking individual. Immediately after the event, it was written into plays, stories and puppet shows, and told through word-of-mouth as a symbol of the true level of loyalty samurai should hold to their master — even after their master dies and the samurai become ronin, or masterless samurai, the most commendable samurai maintain their loyalty.

Since then, hundreds of versions of this event have found their way into older and contemporary culture, inside and outside Japan. The most recent example is a film currently in the works, “47 Ronin,” starring Keanu Reeves (“The Matrix” trilogy) as Kai, a half Japanese, half British ronin. His character was created especially for this film, and has not been in past versions of the story. Reeves is the only non-Japanese member of the main cast, though the film will be released in English.

The film, already postponed several times from its original released date in November 2012 to its current released date on Dec. 25, 2013, is struggling to come to fruition. Director Carl Rinsch (who has only directed short films up to this point) was reportedly removed from the editing process of the film for straying from Universal Studios’ desires for the product. The film has gone severely over budget (from $175 million to $225 million) and Rinsch apparently struggled to make Reeves the focus of the production.

Despite an impressive Japanese cast, such as Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Last Samurai”), Tadanobu Asano (“Thor”) and Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”), the shaky status of “47 Ronin” may leave fans of this centuries-old Japanese legend worried about the outcome of the film (if there is one).