Jay-Z may have 99 problems, but you can bet he’s glad “47 Ronin” ain’t one. Universal‘s big budget samurai flick starring Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi and rounded out with a mostly Japanese cast has seen its problems displayed through ever changing release dates. Originally slated to open on November 21st of this year, it was optimistically bumped to February 8, 2013 back in the spring. But it seems as though concerns around the picture grew worse and the studio decided they need more time, as the picture has now been pegged with a Christmas Day slot next year. Whether it will hold or not remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: director Carl Erik Rinsch‘s relationship with the movie is now over.
The Wrap reports that following recent reshoots in London, Rinsch has been removed from the editing suite and Universal co-chairwoman Donna Langley is now supervising as the film gets cut. According to one of the trade’s sources, the movie has been a “nightmare,” with the budget reportedly soaring to $225 million (though Universal says the movie is still on budget at $175 million). But it seems Rinsch being booted was a long time coming, and perhaps this serves as a cautionary tale about the risks of assigning first-time directors to expensive blockbusters.
Apparently, a veteran of shooting commercials, Rinsch “buckled” under the weight of carrying the movie that tells the story of the titular 47 warriors who, following the forced seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) of their master after assaulting a court official, seek revenge on those who caused his death. The director couldn’t be fired as DGA guidelines state a helmer must at least finish physical production, but Universal apparently “micromanaged” the reshoots, and were unsatisfied with the overall approach. Causing a particular rift was a climatic scene that the studio didn’t feel featured Reeves enough, with the one week of reshoots essentially being done to get more closeups of the actor. Not only that, a love scene and more dialogue were added in an effort to make Reeves more of a presence in the picture.
This is quite a fall for Rinsch who arrived in Hollywood with a blaze of buzz surrounding him as a hot director within Tony Scott‘s commercial house RSA, and caused a Hollywood bidding war with his short film “The Gift” (watch here). And while first time filmmakers being given the keys to big tentpoles is a familiar practice, the “47 Ronin” situation certainly highlights what can happen when the helmer simply can’t make the transition. And of course, the blame can’t land entirely on Rinsch’s shoulders either — surely the studio knew the script they had and saw what was coming together in preproduction, so one has to wonder why they would decide at such a late stage to toss in a romance.
Of course, what kind of final shape the picture will take is anyone’s guess. One has to remember that it was only last fall that editing room rumors swirled around “Dredd 3D,” only for it to emerge as a geek favorite this year. And clearly, Universal is making sure they have as much time as they need to get the picture into presentable shape. But, the opposite is also true and sometimes you can try everything possible to fix a turkey…only for it to still be a turkey. Will the Christmas 2013 release date hold? Can Universal right the ship on this one? Well, if we were in their shoes, our first plan would be to prepare a helluva presentation for Comic-Con next summer in an effort to shift the momentum and keep the financial black eye on this one from getting more swollen. But what happens next is anyone’s guess.