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John Frankenheimer didn't have a lot of credibility in his last few
years. His final film was the rather crap Reindeer Games, with Ben
Affleck, and in 1996 he gave us the utterly terrible Island Of Doctor
Moreau. However, he did do Ronin in 1998, which makes up for absolutely
It is a detachment from glossy, MTV-directed, Hollywood action movies. If you want trash, like Bad Boys 2, then this isn't for you. Ronin returns to the gritty, rustic and deadly serious actioners of the Seventies, much like Frankenheimer's own French Connection 2.
The title refers to Samurai warriors in ancient Japan who were left with no cause, or purpose, if their master was killed. They'd roam the countryside, pretending to be thieves, beggars, even madmen and hiring their skills out to the highest bidder. Much like the lost, wandering freelancers that make up our cast of characters.
Robert De Niro is Sam, an ex-CIA agent (or is he?), who bands together with a ragtag group of similar ex-spies for a "no questions asked" job with what appears to be the IRA. First we have Vincent (the wonderful Jean Reno), as a French agent who knows where to find just about anything you want. Spence (Sean Bean) is a gung-ho SAS dropout who is waaaaay out of his depth and ends up jeopardising the whole mission. Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard), an ex-KGB spy who knows his gadgets and another American called Larry (who is rather disposable). All of these men are led by Deirdre (Natascha McElhone), a young Irish woman who answers to Seamus O'Rourke (Jonathan Price), an IRA boss who is in a lot of trouble with his superiors.
Still with me? No? Well I'm gonna continue anyway. The group's mission is to steal a metallic briefcase from the Russian Mafia. The contents of this case are a mystery; all we know is that a lot of people are willing to pay mucho plento to get their hands on it.
As if the set-up wasn't tenuous enough, there is immediately too much suspicion within the group to bear. And the already complicated plot is thrown into endless chaos as double-crosses, double-double-crosses, secrets and lies screw things up in a big, big way.
It sounds tough going, but it's not really. I'll admit I didn't really like Ronin when I first saw it (or the second or third for that matter), but it's one of those movies that creeps back on you. Frankenheimer's direction is so flawless and masterful that every frame of every scene flows effortlessly The acting is so well rehearsed and the cast so well chosen that even in every gesture, idiosyncrasy and subtle glance you can read into the characters's hidden motives. It takes a good number of viewings to decipher Ronin, but when the story is this well done, who cares? Since its release there have been few action films that have come close to its intensity. Some, like Bourne Identity/Supremacy try to emulate its bleak tone, but don't match up. Supremacy has a car chase that was desperate to beat Ronin's, but is far too flashy.
That's also the ace up it's sleeve. About 80 minutes into the film, the second car chase is a juggernaut of film-making. Never before and probably never again for a long, long time, has there been a car chase so completely mental. No Michael Bay 1000 cuts a second, no slow-motion, no stunts silhouetted against the sunset, just sheer, relentless adrenaline, as DeNiro and Reno tear up the streets of Paris. It's the centrepiece of the movie and a perfect example of what REAL action film-making is.
Elia Cmiral's score is the other utterly perfect aspect of the movie. Simultaneously lonely, seductive and mysterious, it surely is one of the best themes ever and anyone with sense would go out and buy the soundtrack CD right away.
Ronin is perfection from beginning to end, from Frankenheimer's strong, imposing direction to David Mamet's script, riddled with cryptic dialogue and double-meanings.
No one can deny Ronin's importance as a real action picture. No one can watch crap like xXx, or 6 Fast 6 Furious, and claim Ronin to be a bad movie. It has enough, maybe too much, integrity and intelligence to shame anything that comes even halfway close. If you're sick of action flicks, or films in general, where the audience just sits there passively and is fed information, then Ronin is the cure.
It may sound like a bizarre comparison, but it's on par with Lost Highway, as one of those movies you have to figure out in your own damn time.
Every once in a rare while comes an action movie that is also a
genuinely good film. This is one of those movies. What makes these
uncommon movies what they are is simple: plot. No movie can compromise
that and in recent years Hollywood has been doing just that to show off
it's million dollar special effects and two cent story lines. This film
has both pulse pounding breakneck action scenes and developed and
The story starts when mercenaries are hired to retrieve a secret silver briefcase with mysterious contents. The mission goes awry with betrayal and we soon find out that everyone has their own motives and goals with the mysterious silver case.
The cast is good and the direction is smooth and keeps the story flowing and it'll keep you guessing right up to the very end about just exactly what is going on and who everyone is. Then, there are the car chases and they are awesome. Truly awesome and even legendary by now. Just like classics like 'Bullitt' and 'The French Connection' and goofy camp films of the seventies (like the original 'Gone in 60 Seconds') this film uses no hyper-crazy CGI in its action scenes and that proves all for the better since it is an action movie, but it cannot lose all it's credibility for the sake of some cars crashing. A thrill needs to be at least partly believable, otherwise it won't be thrilling. In fact the whole film has a more realistic feel to it with the relentlessness of the action being not over the top, but still enjoyable for fans of the genre. Then there are the characters who much more real as they don't snap wise cracks while shooting bad guys square in the head one handed with a pistol at 30 yards.
All in all, this is a very good entry in the action genre and Hollywood should take note. 8/10
Rated R for violence
I picked up this DVD in Asda's a few weeks ago and seeing it had Robert
Niro starring convinced me enough to buy it. Then seeing in the credits
starred Jean Reno, Sean Bean and Jonothan Pryce too made me realise I was
watching a winner here.
I wasn't wrong either, this film is brilliant. The beginning is slow and tense; dark, clear colours in the picture sets the mood perfectly. From then on most of it is pretty much action.
Five mysterious men of various backgrounds (ex-CIA, KGB etc) meet in Paris, France for a job headed by a Northern Irish woman. The job is to steal a case from a group and return the case to their as yet unknown employers. Just as things seem to run smoothly, one of them is a double-crosser.
Now for some of the best bits, the car chases. These are shot magnificently as Peugeot's, BMW's and Audi's tear through the streets of Paris. These chases are the most thrilling chases I have ever seen. And when you get chases, you get crashes. Think on-coming traffic chases and you might get the picture.
This is a must see film. 8 out of 10.
This thriller from veteren John Frankenheimer is pure excellence, the script, acting and action are top draw. De Niro and Reno are brilliant in this as of course you would expect from two such excellent actors. The action scenes are pulse pounding and particularly excellent are the car chases, probably the best ever. Not only did the stunt guys risk their lives but the guys shooting the action captured some truly thrilling close up view from the cars as they speed along. The action also carries a certain degree of realism to it, the shootouts are sensible and the car chases and crashes seem very genuine no massive corkscrewing threw the air like most car chases or cars jumping 100 feet in the air like in Gone in 60 seconds, which is all very good but not for this sort of thriller. The pacing of the film was great and there was a constant chilling atmosphere. As I said before Robert De Niro and Jean Reno were exceptional particularly in their scenes together. The support cast are good too with a brief but excellent display from Sean Bean and Natasha Mchelhone and Jonathan Pryce are both good as Irish terrosists with comendable accents. All in all a very god way to spend a few hours.
"Ronin" is one of those rare action films like "The French Connection" and "To Live and Die in L.A." that will keep a viewer watching from beginning to end. The performances in this movie are nothing short of superb and terrific. All of the key characters deserve a lot of credit, ranging from De Niro, Reno, McElhrone, Pryce, Skarsgard, and especially, Michael Lonsdale, who fills in the missing link with such detail and looks like he made the little samurai action figures with extreme care. The best scene of the film isn't the shootouts or car chases, it's the conservation that Sam (De Niro) and Jean-Pierre (Lonsdale) have over the Ronin myth. I'll have to admit that "Ronin" is the first film that I have seen was made by the crafty veteran director John Frankenheimer ("Grand Prix", "The Manchurian Candidate"). If you haven't seen "Ronin", go to a video store and rent the movie now.
A great movie that you can't just watch with one eye. It starts slow,
laying a strong foundation, and if it's on TV, it's easy to get lost by
not paying attention at the beginning. However, it's an outstanding
film, exploring the characters with a huge action movie in the
It's visually interesting and doesn't ever let you know the things you think you need to know, but by the end you've forgotten that you wanted to know them in the first place. Robert DeNiro gives a strong performance and doesn't get lost in some of the showiness he can deliver when he's making up for a weaker story, and the supporting cast is full of familiar faces, many of which blend so well into the characters they play that, again, you can become lost in the story (although this time, it a good way).
Watching Ronin is like going 25 years back in time. The European
locations, the cold and cynical characters, the deliberately ambiguous
and serpentine plot, the car chases, the treachery.... all these are
the standard ingredients of those twisty spy flicks that were
ten-a-penny in the late '60s and early '70s. And who better to direct
this retro-thriller than John Frankenheimer, the man behind such genre
masterpieces as The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days In May?
A group of mercenaries gather in a Parisian warehouse. They don't know each other, and they don't particularly know why they've been summoned.... other than the fact that they're about to be offered a job worth a considerable amount of money. Among the group is Sam (Robert De Niro), an American "ronin" (the name once given to masterless Japanese samurai-warriors who used to wander across the land offering themselves as hired swords). Others include Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno), English weapons expert Spence (Sean Bean), East European electronics specialist Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard) and ace driver Larry (Skip Sudduth). The team has been brought together by Irish revolutionary Deidre (Natascha McElhone), who eventually reveals to them that their task is to get hold of a mysterious silver briefcase. They are not told what is in the briefcase, merely that if they want to get their hands on their money then they must steal the said briefcase from a team of ruthless agents currently guarding it.
Throughout its running time Ronin keeps its plot very secretive (even at the end we never learn WHAT was actually in the briefcase). In some ways, this makes the story intriguing but it also causes a certain degree of dissatisfaction as many of the loose ends are still left untied as the final credits roll. De Niro gives a game performance as the morally complex "hero", and Reno backs him up splendidly in yet another of his charismatic, slightly villainous roles. The big revelation is McElhone, a relative newcomer, who holds her own with all these powerhouse stars without looking at all daunted. The action is excitingly shot, especially the film's regular car chases and shootouts. It's nice to see genuinely hair-raising stunt work being used to achieve the effectiveness of these action sequences, as opposed to the usual '90s dependency on digital trickery. Check out also the amazing scene in which De Niro has to cut a bullet from his own stomach, using a mirror and a sharp knife! While Ronin might be a throwback to the films of yesteryear, with a story every bit as murky and "cloak-and-dagger" as the old films it resembles, it still comes across as an enjoyable and pacy piece of entertainment.
A pretty decent action outing for Robert De Niro and John
Frankenheimer. Good photography of some of the seedier neighborhoods of
Paris and other French cities. This film is quintessential De Niro, and
he gets all the good lines. There is an interesting revelation at the
end, which I will not reveal here. The case everyone is after, is a
complete McGuffin, what Hitchcock called that plot device, the thing
which everyone wants, and it doesn't really matter exactly what that
is. I think that Frankenheimer may have been paying homage to Hitchcock
on this, as what is in the case is never revealed. Apparently David
Mamet was the script doctor on this film, and it ended up OK. I am of
two minds on Mamet, having liked "The Untouchables" a lot, and disliked
"Glengarry Glen Ross" and loathed "Oleanna". I also liked Natascha
McElhone, who I had never heard of. She is a beautiful and accomplished
actress. Some people complained about her brogue. OK, she's not Meryl
Streep. But then again, who is? A lot of actors won't even try. I look
forward to seeing more of her.
Oh, yeah, and some of the car chases were really, really cool, almost McQueenian.
The movie begins with a bunch of international mercenaries, five to be
exact, gathering in a bistro in Paris
Working only for money, their
job was strictly to take intact a metal suitcase from several menvery
well armed who'll be intent on preventing them
No information was
given about its contents, value or purpose
An extraordinary cast of actors forms the group:
Robert De Niro, the ex-CIA agent and expert strategist; Jean Reno, the French mercenary; Stellan Skarsgard, the mysterious computer professional; Sean Bean, the ace field man; and Skipp Sudduth, the specialist in driving getaway cars
Dierdre (Natascha McElhone) is the icy Irishwoman who explains the mission, but she is not necessarily the one fully in charge It seems that the 'handler' who pulls the strings is an Irish fugitive called Seamus (Jonathan Pryce).
The film becomes tense and very exciting when one of the five members double-crosses the rest of the team, replacing the suitcase and leaving with the one they got Here appears a mysterious man apparently in love with Natacha Kirilova played by Katarina Witt, the East German figure skater, 4-time world championinterested in the suitcase
"Ronin" combines exotic European locations with the most sophisticated movie car chase ever filmed on a superhighway when McElhone takes her black BMW through the wrong lanes followed by De Niro in a blue FWD Peugeot
De Niro is great to watch as the tough Sam, who remains cool regardless of the peril of the operation Equally not susceptible to alarm are Skarsgard and Reno Natascha McElhone brings a chilling, glacial quality to the role of the forceful woman not afraid of anything
Frankenheimer doesn't recapture the intensity he once created in movies like "The Manchurian Candidate," and the "French Connection"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Frankenheimer crafted what was likely the last great movie of his
career with this international espionage thriller about rogue agents
who have found themselves out of place in post-Cold War era Europe.
With few exceptions, everyone is addressed by their first name only. As the story progresses, this works well, since they could just as easily be aliases. The film follows an American ex-CIA spook Sam, and a French mercenary, Vincent, as they are recruited along with a German ex-KGB agent named Gregor, a British military man named Spence, and another American named Spence. An Irish femme fatal, Deirdre, tells them about their mysterious mission to seize a case from some French gangsters before it can be sold to the Russian Mafia.
The case is what Alfred Hitchcock called a McGuffin, something the characters want, but the audience doesn't care about. And whatever it is, people seem to think it's of great importance. Whoever has the case, has control of the situation.
Spence proves to be a wimp at the job, and is given an severence pay before walking away. Then, in the impressive takedown where the case is seized in transit, Gregor turns out to be a turncoat working for the Russians. But this is a difficult place to be for him, since they want him dead just as much as the Irish do.
Deirdre, for her part, is covering for a cruel IRA man named Seamus. Everyone has a reason not to trust their fellow man, and shootouts and exhilarating chase sequences ensue.
This was something of a precursor to the more recent Jason Bourne movies in style, although since no one is working at the CIA, we don't have the jumpy editing. But it certainly has equal, or even superior chases to the Bourne movies.
Robert De Niro is good as the wisecracking Sam. Jean Reno is even better as his comrade Vincent. Stellan Skarsgard is sinister, but also a little sympathetic. NAtascha McElhone and Jonathan Pryce, English and Welsh respectively, play the two Irish characters, whose accents are pretty good. Pryce is menacing in one of his more sadistic roles.
Overall a good movie. There is, of course, some suspension of disbelief involved. But the way that Frankenheimer melds the environment to make it seem realistic, it's easy to let it slide.
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