Geoff Boucher
December 19, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

Before he could play Kai — a half-Japanese, half-English tracker who joins a famed band of ronin warriors in 18th-century Japan — Keanu Reeves needed to get some hands-on time with a samurai sword. ”The katana is a two-handed sword, so the style and the basics were all new for me,” Reeves explained on a soggy 2011 shooting day in a U.K. forest. ”For one thing, well, you really do need to hold on with both hands.” 47 Ronin hits theaters one year after its planned release date and north of its $175 million budget. Under debut director Carl Rinsch, the production has endured reshoots, rejiggered F/X, and communication issues — Rinsch needed a translator to talk to his mostly Japanese cast.

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