Ronin (1998) Poster

(1998)

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10/10
Brilliance
CuriosityKilledShawn10 February 1999
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 everything.

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.
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10/10
Great action movie, Hollywood should watch and learn from this
BroadswordCallinDannyBoy24 September 2005
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 interesting story.

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
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8/10
Car Insurance in France must be expensive ...
coldwave17123 April 2003
I picked up this DVD in Asda's a few weeks ago and seeing it had Robert De Niro starring convinced me enough to buy it. Then seeing in the credits it 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.
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9/10
Stunning car chases!! great movie!
supertom-320 February 2002
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.
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A Case of Unknowns
Metrocrash10 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Ronin (1998) being one of the late John Frankinheimer's final films before his passing is a much improved formulaic film to the disastrous turnout of the Marlon Brando led Island of Dr Moreau. The story contains a "McGuffin" being a plot device that the characters want very much, but the audience cares little or nothing about. The device of Ronin is a boxy Metal Case, with contents unknown. At the same time the film's title draws its name to the similarities of the leads....The Ronin were ancient Japanese Samurii warriors without Masters to serve. Mercenaries. Our film contains a group of former spooks of multiple nationalities turned freelance mercenaries without a master aka a Country to serve. Sam, Vincent, Gregor, and Deidre plus a handful of others whose names are unimportant. For this movie, our hodgepodge of Ronin are hired by parties unknown (accept that they have Irish and/or Russian connections), for reasons unknown to capture a case whose contents remain unknown in possession by French gangster whose reasons for possessing the case remain unknown. The Ronin do their homework and manage to snatch the case after hair-raising car chases and violent gun battles. But then the double cross begins and a new chase (both literally and figuratively) ensues for the now split Ronin the recapture the case and send it on its way to its unknown Desiree.

For all its splendor and suspense, Ronin, still lacks a clear direction to follow. Clearly, Frankenheimer's direction was utilizing a Hitchcock McGuffin (the case) to explore the characters. However, the script lacks a real clear direction for any of the characters, perhaps thats why the title was named Ronin. Despite all their combined acting talents and prestige Robert De Niro and company all come across as dry characters. All are basically amoral and suspicious of their fellows. The audience really has no like or dislike of what constitutes the good guys from the bad ones. None really show passion towards the Case beyond its perceived monetary rewards, which is what they are trying to obtain. Unfortunately, the McGuffin fails in this film because, the audience really cares more about the case than the characters. As if the Case itself had a personality and history. Clearly the Case's contents are of high value given all the trouble and time that the higher-ups are paying to get it. However what the movie lacks inward looking makes up for in high stakes stunts, car chases and gunfights, that makes the viewer more interested in the momentary safety of both the supposed good and bad guys. Well done on that part.

In an otherwise typical Hollywood way of illustrating things for the audience to understand better, occurs about 2/3 of the way in the movie after Sam performs surgery on himself, at the old man's house in the Mountains. This man had a hobby of designing and building diorama-like miniature sets of legendary battle scenes, complete with handcrafted characters in proper attire. On this particular day he was designing scenes of Japanese Feaudal Samuri, and he began a little monologue about how certain warriors who lost their masters were known as Ronin. In a sense he compared these ancient feudal warriors to the freelance spooks of the movie. This is how the filmmaker's tied the film's title to the film, which would otherwise be called something like "Hire, then Betray, then Die"

Possible spoilers below. On a footnote, at the movies conclusion during the little coffee shop scene between Sam and Vincent, a reporter mentions in a sound only byte that some new twist had occurred concerning peace negotiations in Northern Ireland...suggesting that the case's contents contained some sort of instrument of negotiation that the parties involved need to help in the peace negotiations...what that could be I couldn't tell you.

Provided you can look past the desire to learn about whats in that ubiquitous case, Ronin is a film that any action fan will rave about, but mystery fans might find a little lacking. My opinion...I enjoyed it but still left wanting to know more about the case and why all the destruction and death to get it, when the characters themselves had no desire to keep it permanently.
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10/10
A film that lives up to its high expectations
mhasheider30 March 2000
"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.
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8/10
Pay attention.
sdlocalhead25 May 2006
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 background.

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).
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8/10
Extremely Exciting 90's Gem
Dean_Jenkins1 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
An excellent plot line with a few nice twists and some of the greatest car scenes ever put to film make this a must see for all action fans and one of the best movies to come out of the 90's!

With Deniro , Reno and Bean bringing extremely believable characters to life this action - fest is also one for folks who don't necessarily always opt for the high octane stuff! There's some decent acting and a cracking plot to keep those of you who like a little bit more than just a car chase satisfied.

Really this film is simply a little gem waiting to be enjoyed by all!

8/10
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9/10
Good action flick helped by some outstanding acting.
jscontoyannis17 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm surprised how underrated this film is. I thought it was one of the better action movies of recent years. DeNiro and Reno had a great chemistry, and some of the chase sequences, especially the last car chase scene (one of the best filmed/coordinated I've ever seen). The supporting actors were great, there were plenty of devious double-crosses and the like as well.

The basic plot is as follows: There is a group (presumably IRA) which is looking to steal something important. They hire a group of criminals/ex-operatives to do a job in return for exorbitant pay. DeNiro's character (Sam) is mysterious,although he seems to be some sort of ex-operative. Needless to say his true origins do not become clear until much later in the film. The remainder of the gang members also have shady backgrounds. They are tasked with finding a specific package which their employing shadow group covets. However, once they have the package, greed takes over and the group begins to break down as order and allegiances quickly dissolve. What results is some compelling action, as Skaarsgard (Gregor) turns out to be DeNiro's antithesis, another ex-operative from the other side. As I mentioned before, the camera-work in the chase scene is outstanding, and as far as I know, very original. I have never seen anything like it before or since.

I thought it was a highly entertaining movie, and, well I'm a huge DeNiro fan. If you're in the mood for an entertaining crime film with a twist or three, then go rent this. You won't be disappointed.
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8/10
An exciting film with tour de force performances by De Niro & Jean Reno…
Nazi_Fighter_David23 June 2007
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 men—very 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 champion—interested 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"
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6/10
A throwback to old-style espionage thrillers, with an unexplained plot but plenty of enjoyable action.
barnabyrudge17 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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7/10
The ultimate McGuffin
smatysia14 March 2005
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.
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10/10
They Don't Make Them Better Than "Ronin"
zardoz-1317 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Robert De Niro gets a chance to shoot off more than his mouth in director John Frankenheimer's "Ronin," a first-class, fast-paced, off-beat, international suspense-thriller about a mysterious suitcase that has co-stars Jean Reno, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Natascha McElhone and Sean Bean squeezing triggers first and worrying about questions afterward in modern day France. If you are searching for comparisons, "Ronin" huddles alongside raw-edged Quentin Tarantino classics like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" as well as the Michael Mann masterpiece "Heat" in a line-up of crime thrillers. Indisputably, a cynical, street-wise, blue-collar crime caper, "Ronin" qualifies as De Niro's most visceral actioneer since the mob-related Martin Scorsese saga "Goodfellas." Audiences who demand that their movies neatly lace-up all leftover plot strings before fadeout may hate Frankenheimer's penchant for realism in storytelling.

Clearly, "Ronin" is a post-Cold War thriller. Neither patriotism nor propaganda motivates the ex-Central Intelligence Agency operative known only as Sam and the former KGB agents with whom Sam swaps lead in this crisp, hard-heeled melodrama about lethal secrets and lost illusions. A shady lady with obvious IRA connections, Deirdre (Natascha McElhone of "The Truman Show"), hires a diverse team of former spies and terrorists to seize a hot suitcase that the Russians, the Irish, and others want to buy. De Niro ramrods this covert cabal as Sam, a reticent professional who evades questions about his past. You can tell that Sam knows his business in the first scene when he cases a bar before he enters it and stashes a pistol outside near the back door should he require a rapid exit. Joining him are Vincent (Jean Reno of "Le Femme Nikita"), the scourger who can lay his hands on anything; Larry (Skipp Sudduth of "Eraser") the getaway car driver; Spence (Sean Bean of "GoldenEye"), a flaky English weapons whiz; and Gregor (Stellan Skarsgård of "Insomnia"), a wizard with electronics.

Written by "Witchblade's" Z.D. Zeik and Richard Weisz (playwright David Mamet's pseudonym), "Ronin" deplores artifice. The scenarists reveal only what audiences need to know. This heist caper does things that audiences either will hate or are not accustomed to in Hollywood films. For example, De Niro does not get the dame Deirdre at fadeout. The most that our chief protagonist gets out of her is a couple of hugs and kisses during a make-out scene. Essentially, there are two kinds of thrillers. First, those where the innocent bystanders never acquire so much as a scratch and second those were they die. In "Ronin," innocent bystanders are victims. They get shot at or smashed up. The heroes get shot up themselves, despite their bullet-proof vests, too.

Some things in "Ronin" are left up in the air. One apparent main character exits early in the action, but not in a shower of blood like Janet Leigh's premature departure in the Alfred Hitchcock classic "Psycho." Instead, Spence gets booted off the job because he cannot measure up to their standards. Meanwhile, like "Pulp Fiction" never divulge what is in the suitcase. Veteran director John Frankenheimer has a knack for staging urban shoot-outs and car chases through crowded Parisian streets. When the characters scramble for their cars and careen recklessly down narrow, claustrophobic streets, you want to grip the arms of your chair. Even if you walk out of "Ronin" unhappy with the ending, you cannot say that this spirited thriller did not keep you glued to your chair by the seat of your pants during the superb action scenes.
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10/10
Spies, cars, guns and brilliance
dave_wlogan22 July 2008
This is undoubtedly my all time favourite film. It has everything I like in it. Great plot, characters, action, acting, script, cinematography, direction and of course the locations. This film has combined all these aspects into a monster of a movie.

The plot is great as it has narrative but only gives you what Sam (De Niro) knows about what he's doing. The audience is purposefully being kept at arms length so that they are constantly thinking about what is coming next? What does this mean? And of course the most important question, what is in the case? The plot itself is not overly complex. An Irish separatist group want a case which is being sold to the Russian Mafia and they hire spies, who no longer have jobs since the Cold War, ended to get it for them. However the relationships between characters and the plot twists make for a movie that is filled with intrigue and themes. So the plot ranks at 8/10.

The script is very solid. It is a no nonsense script which contains good lines from different cultures. It has American sayings, British phrases, Irish mannerisms, French touches and even a little bit of a German directness for the appropriate characters. It has some good interactions in it. Vincent and Sam have some of the best exchanges, as do Sam and Spence (Bean). Script gets a rating of 9/10.

The characters don't seem complex at first but they are very different and very three-dimensional. Each character seems to have am untold back story that has made them who they are. The relationship between the characters counts for a lot especially the ones between Sam, Deirdre (McElhorne) and Vincent (Reno). So the characters rate at 8/10 as well.

It has a unique cast the likes of which rivals 'Heat'. De Niro, Reno, Skarsgard, Bean, McElhorne, Price and Lonsdale are some of the best in the business and they are all on the top of their game in this picture. To give you an idea of what to expect I regard the scenes where it is just Reno and De Niro to be ten times better than Paccino and De Niro in 'Heat' (which is arguably the greatest Thriller/action movie ever made). Lonsdale is the icing on the cake of this films cast, Reno, De Niro and Skarsgard provide most of the cake ingredients, but Lonsdale is just class. So the Cast is 10/10 Frankenheimer achieved perfect acting with his cast as well as brilliantly composed shots done with Robert Fraisse and a good challenging narrative. The car chases surpass the racing scenes from his 'Grand Prix' and there is some of the best acting we have seen from one of his casts in this film. 10/10 for him as well.

Each shot in this film is a work of art. The smooth steady-cam shots, the perfect composition of the close ups when introducing the characters and the various shots achieved during the car chase scenes all look fantastic. The cinematographer Robert Fraisse did a fantastic job working with the very visual John Frankenheimer, who never received the plaudits he deserved. 10/10 for the photography.

The action is immense. The gunfights and car chases all look sublime. No CGI in the action sequences either it's either stunt men or the actors and its looks so fluid. The car chases make ever other car chase seem obsolete and the gunfights aren't half bad either. But the car chases are the high point of the action of the film and must be seen to be believed. The action gets a 10/10 rating from me. The locations in Paris, Nice and Arles add a subliminal beauty to the film. The helicopter shots give the audience a nice view of the brilliant architecture and charm of French cities. The layout of the cities also makes the car chases interesting, as the streets are very narrow and filled with sharp turns. The look of the buildings does the most for the films look though. The stone buildings give a sense of age that goes along with the retired intelligence officers. This is the first Hollywood action movie to be shot in France and special rights were given to the crew so that the film industry in France would boom. The locations collect a solid 10/10.

Due to all these factors Ronin becomes a classic espionage film that will be difficult to surpass. The car chases are truly phenomenal. This is a must see film.
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10/10
Magnificent movie
jakub-2424 April 2008
Ronin is a magnificent title. It's a carefully painted picture. The plot is very smart. You should probably see the movie for the acting itself, and for the tension between the characters that fluctuates as you go through the scenes.

This is the single best real-life spy movie I've ever seen (as opposed to high tech/high action spy movies like James Bond / Bourne series).

Reno and De Niro made a great roles here, but so did McElhone and Skarsgard.

The whole plot is about a chase after a suitcase, or at least it seems so. When it finally becomes clear what's the case's significance, you come to realize the ingenuity of the writer. Believe me, it's worth it.
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9/10
Action, car chases, an international cast, and a director who knows what he's doing
tghoneyc23 February 2005
Warning: 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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7/10
A group of killers played by an all-star-cast is brought together to take a strange case for a high-powered client
ma-cortes5 October 2013
A woman called Deirdre (Natascha McElhone) assembles a team of professional mercenaries (Robert De Niro, Jean Reno , Sean Bean , Stellan Skarsgård , Skipp Sudduth , among others) from all over the world , they are specialists of every kind , whose services are available to everyone at exchange of money . Their mission to get a hold on a certain package with some mysterious content . The case is in the hands of some ex-KGB spies and there are many people and organizations that will do anything to get it . As the package is wanted by both the Irish and the Russians ; both of whom try to track down . Then a double-cross leads to a cat and mouse game . These mercenaries are like Ronin , in Japan ,"Ronin" (coming soon a film starred by Keanu Reeves titled 47 Ronin) means a Samurai without master .

This exciting espionage picture packs noisy action , thrills , car pursuits , and spectacular outdoors from France such as Arles , Nice , Cannes and Paris . From start to finish the action is unstoppable and frenetic . Interesting and nail-biting screenplay written by Richard Weisz , is in fact David Mamet . Impressive car chases , in fact 80 automobiles were destroyed during filming and more than 300 stunt drivers were employed to give the real-time chases scene an air of metal-crunching realism ; even one of the stunt drivers was former Formula 1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier . Main cast is frankly excellent such as Robert De Niro as Sam , Jean Reno as Vincent and Natascha McElhone as Deirdre . Very good support cast such as Stellan Skarsgård as Gregor , Sean Bean , Jonathan Pryce , Michael Lonsdale , Jan Triska , Feodor Akine , Amidou and Skipp Sudduth requested to do his own stunt driving during the car chases and John Frankenheimer agreed . Furthermore , the figure skater played by Katarina Witt, winner of two Olympic and four world championships in figure skating . Colorful cinematography filmed in Super 35 and Panavision by Robert Fraisse , almost all scenes were shot on location with the exception of two scenes ; the opening scene used a set with the couple walking past the camera as the matching shot between location and set . Thrilling as well as atmospheric Original Music by Elia Cmiral .

¨Ronin¨ or ¨a samurai who is masterless¨ was efficiently directed by John Frankenheimer . At the beginning he worked for TV and turned to the cinema industry with The Young Stranger (1957) . Disappointed his with first feature film experience he came back to his successful television career directing a total of 152 live television shows in the 50s . He took another opportunity to change to the big screen , collaborating with Burt Lancaster in The Young Savages (1961) and Birdman of Alcatraz (62) ending up becoming a successful director well-known by his skills with actors and expressing on movies his views on important social deeds and philosophical events and film-making some classics as ¨The Manchurian candidate¨, ¨Seven days of May¨ and ¨The Train¨ and , in addition , ¨Grand Prix¨ also with great car races . Rating : Better and average and well worth seeing . The flick will appeal to frenetic action and suspense buffs .
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8/10
Great action movie.
dimitrisalomao20 March 2010
"Ronin" is an extremely well made film, and although is has some failures, still an enjoyable action movie.

Ronin is the Japanese word used for Samurai without a master. In this case, the Ronin are outcast specialists of every kind (De Niro, Reno, Skarsgård...), whose services are available to everyone - for money. Dierdre (McElhone) hires several Ronin to form a team in order to retrieve an important suitcase from a man who is about to sell it to the Russians. After the mission has been completed successfully, the suitcase immediately gets switched by a member of the team who seems to work into his own pocket. The complex net of everyone tricking everyone begins to surface slowly, and deadly...

It's an action movie, so let's talk about the action sequences, in which I think is what this movie focuses. The shootings are excellent, we always know where is everybody, and we can notice their strategy, instead of seeing a lot of man shooting themselves. Now, the car chases are the reason this movie will be remembered, because they are simply the best. When a friend told me it was the best car chase ever, I thought, "This guy haven't seeing "Bullit", but I was wrong, and he was right, the angle that they shoot the chase sequences, make that seem really dangerous, we always expect them to crash, it look so real.

The acting, as you expected from De Niro, Reno and Stellan Skarsgård, is really great, but De Niro deserves attention, he appears always safe about what he is doing, which strengthens the idea of him being so wise, and experienced. You can't find a single movie that De Niro is not good, the only movie that I thought he was just good is "Awakenings".

The plot is unbelievable sometimes, like when they are looking for a Russian, and when they see a poster announcing a presentation of Russian ballet, they deduce that they will find the bad guy in there (didn't they notice that is hard to find one man between 30.000 people, when they didn't even know how they look like?).

Verdict: It's a well made action/thriller with great action scenes, and equally great performances.
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10/10
Brilliant, fast-paced action
f1manoz13 November 2002
It was a shame that this did not last too long in the cinema, as people missed out on quite a brilliant piece of work.

Robert de Niro is outstanding like usual as the ex-CIA man. Jean Reno is also credible as his French accomplice, while there are notable performances from Stellan Skaarsgard and Sean Bean.

The best sequences, by far, during the movie are the car-chases, which are brilliantly filmed all the way around France. Who'd have thought 2-litre Peugeots and Citroens could provide so much entertainment?

The movie is never dull throughout, as the story twists and turns. Shame we never actually find out what's in that damn case!!
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8/10
Attention To Detail
brianoh226 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'm the sort of guy that abandons a movie because of weaknesses in the plot and/or storyline. There was no such problem with this movie. Frankenheimer is a master and had a lot of help from some great actors. Add some education along the way (The 47 Ronin), and some great car-chase scenes, and what a great movie. I feel a little guilty only giving 8 from 10, but I've only given one film more than 8. A great job was done by all! I suppose if there was a fault, I would say it would have to be with the car-chase scenes. Driving the wrong way for such a distance was a little unbelievable. Just the same, these scenes kept me on the edge of my seat and certainly added a lot to the end result.
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10/10
Fabulous International Cast Just One Of Many Good Things
ccthemovieman-124 November 2006
Here's another of my favorite films, movies that get better and better with each viewing. One thing I've always enjoyed here from the first time I saw this movie is it features the best (and longest!) car chase scene I've ever seen on film.

But the movie is far more than just spectacular car chases (there are two incredible ones, not just the one noted above.). It offers an interesting story that remains interesting with each viewing. That's because it's a bit confusing, a la "Mission Impossible," so each time you see it ,you figure more and more out. There also are tons of twists to this crime story.

It also features a wonderful international cast" American Robert De Niro, Frenchman Jean Reno, Britain's Sean Bean and Natascha McElhone (both of whom are better playing Irishmen, as they do here) and Swede Stellan Skargsgard. All of them are top-flight actors, as you know. As a bonus, I get to see Olympic skating champion Katarina Witt, from Germany.e

Also, it's directed by John Frankenheimer, a man who makes some of the most entertaining films I've ever watched. Speaking of watching, De Niro and Reno are my two favorite guys to watch in this thriller. The French scenery - rural and urban - is also terrific. The action is not overdone and the only scene in the film I didn't care for was the gruesome one in which a bullet is taken out of De Niro. It's just too detailed and unpleasant to view but, with a DVD, can be skipped rapidly.

The soundtrack also is outstanding. The Chinese instrument that plays here and there is fantastic. I've heard it before in a couple of Yanni concerts.

This is a high quality crime movie and is very highly recommended. This was the first DVD I ever bought (in 2000) and I couldn't have gotten by DVD collection off to a better start!
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8/10
Short On Thought . Long On Thrills
Theo Robertson13 June 2004
RONIN is to all intents and purposes a highly intelligent thriller , or so it would seem on the surface . Unfortunately when you start to examine the plot and structure of the movie it starts to fall apart . These " Ronin " characters - Who are they ? Who employed them ? Where was the job advertised ? It`s never really revealed , perhaps just as well since it`d be impossible to explain how such a motley bunch can be taken seriously . Notice one of the characters is a Walter Mitty type but can get the group any type of gun they want , and is this Walter Mitty guy really necessary to the plot ? , he`s written out after 20 minutes and it`s difficult to understand why he was included by the final draft .

Let`s look at the plot . In his book STORY:THE PRINCIPLES OF SCREENWRITING Robert Mckee explained that when he was a script reader for Hollywood studios he`d only be sent two types of script neither of which really worked , one being an understructured real life type drama and an overstructured action thriller involving an object all the great powers want to get their hands on . RONIN certainly sums up the second type of script , the CIA , the Russians , the IRA and quite possibly the winter olympics commitee are after something that will change the world as we know it and it`s up to this group of hired guns to cross , double cross and triple cross one another to get their hands on it

RONIN could have turned out a complete mess and despite the movie never being as clever as it thinks it is neither does it become the complete debacle it could have become . My exceedingly high entertainment thresholds were met and then some more and much of it had to do with the cast . This movie hardly features DeNiro`s greatest performance but considering the complete rubbish he`s appeared in since the early 1990s he`s by no means bad and does manage to bring some moral charm to his character . Jean Reno and Stellan Skarsgard are two of the greatest actors Europe has produced in the last twenty years and it`s very interesting to see these fine actors in a high octane Hollywood thriller and British Equity is very well represented with Sean Bean and Jonathan Pryce

A highly effective and entertaining thriller which at times is over complicated and plot bare at the same time . Can you imagine the mess Jerry Brukheimer and Michael Bay would have made of this ?
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8/10
High-Speed Action In Great Locations
seymourblack-19 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This unpretentious thriller with its well-staged explosions, shootouts and high-speed chases, delivers enough excitement to satisfy any action movie fan but what makes it even more entertaining, is its snappy dialogue by David Mamet (credited as Robert Weisz), its top class ensemble cast and some sterling work by the late John Frankenheimer. Its weaknesses are its wafer-thin plot, its under-developed characters and the implausible ways in which the story is advanced at various points (e.g. if you want to find Russians, go to an ice-skating show!!). The action takes place in France and the locations chosen, not only look good, but also add enormously to the atmosphere of the piece.

A small team of former covert operations specialists from various countries are brought together in Paris by an enigmatic Irish woman called Deirdre (Natascha McElhone). She appears to be an IRA operative who briefs the team about their forthcoming mission to ambush a convoy of vehicles in order to steal an important metal case for which the Russian mob is prepared to pay generously. Deirdre doesn't disclose any information about what the box contains and is also not very forthcoming when asked to clarify some other operational details that are important to the team members who have considerable expertise in carrying out this type of work.

The team, which comprises Americans, Sam (Robert De Niro) and Larry (Skipp Sudduth), Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno), a German called Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard) and Englishman Spence (Sean Bean), go ahead with the operation as planned but are double crossed by Gregor who steals the coveted case and escapes. He travels to the amphitheatre in Arles where he intends to sell the case to the Russians but gets betrayed by his first contact and then attempts to negotiate a deal with Mikhi (Feodor Atkine) who's the head Russian mobster. After discovering where Gregor had escaped to, Sam and the team head for Arles but a series of further betrayals and killings follow before the truths about Deirdre's boss Seamus O'Rourke (Jonathan Pryce) and Sam's actual mission, become clear.

At the end of the Cold War, the lives of the gang-members in this story had mirrored those of the eponymous warriors of feudal Japan who, after becoming masterless, had become wanderers and mercenaries. These highly-trained 1990s men had clearly become jaded by their experiences and their world-weariness is especially well portrayed in the on-screen performances of Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Stellan Skarsgard. Skarsgard is terrific as one of the villains and De Niro and Reno excel as they show the warmth and trust that develops between their characters in an environment in which it's not easy to trust anyone.

The main strength of this movie is its action sequences which are masterfully choreographed, brilliantly edited and remarkably realistic. Tremendous tension is generated during a weapons deal that gets transacted near the Seine, the stunts are highly impressive and the car chases are exceptional. Overall, this movie provides an undemanding but nevertheless highly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.
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7/10
Explore Exotic Cultures, Meet Exciting New People & Kill Them
tom-darwin7 May 2006
Frankenheimer's back in Paris, where he triumphed more than 30 years earlier with "The Train." This time he has New York Bob DeNiro, some shadowy Irishmen (that's a new one), Russian mobsters & an overlying Japanese motif. Provacateuse Deirdre (McElhone) assembles ex-Cold Warriors who are at loose ends to do a single job: retrieve a case "from several men who will be intent on preventing us." The crew includes French scrounger Vincent (Reno), American driver Larry (Sudduth), English gunman Spence (Bean), Russian computer whiz Gregor (Skarsgard) & American tough guy Sam (DeNiro). This talented crew is as trustworthy as soldiers garrisoned in a Bangkok brothel, but lurking behind them are Irish nationalist fanatic Seamus (Pryce) & Russian kingpin Mikhi (Atkine). Frankenheimer's use of the case as a "McGuffin," as Hitchcock described a material object used to cement the plot, is too ham-fisted to be effective in a full-length film, especially one as long as this. Once again, we see why Hitchcock's old thrillers hold up so well today. But Frankenheimer's combination of action, dialog & character development remains unique & as enjoyable as ever, especially since he gets fine actors & makes them deliver. The streetwise New Yorker Sam should probably not have been believable as a sophisticated but haunted ex-CIA agent, sort of a cross between "Casablanca" Rick & The Equalizer. But DeNiro's mastery of his craft is up to the considerable challenge. Most of the rest of the cast is fantastic and, with a better plot, might have been legendary. Standing out are Reno's wry Frenchman ("Everyone is your brother 'til the rent comes due"), Bean's nervous blowhard & Skarsgard as the slick, steely, ruthless Russian bookworm. McElhone is a one-of-a-kind winner as the handler of the headstrong, tough-guy crew. Deidre is strong & competent but far from cold, dedicated but not naive, mysterious but not vague, at her ease in pearls or behind the wheel of a getaway car. The tale of the 47 Ronin, an old favorite of Asian lit professors, provides the theme of out-of-work Cold Warriors who have no place in society & must remain slaves to their training & experience, no matter how tragic the consequences. The real-life proliferation of wars-on-terror & their self-described "experts" & "security specialists," even before 9/11, renders this theme ironically implausible. Scenes where the characters discuss this depressing state of affairs are almost unbearably boring, dragging down the second half. As with most thrillers of recent years, the plans realized by DeNiro & crew are too complicated & violent to work, relying heavily on advanced weaponry & electronics. They are just excuses to set up spectacular action scenes. But when has Frankenheimer ever let us down in that department? High production values permit TWO fantastic car chases in addition to several other gripping, convincing bustups. Frankenheimer has remained immune to the over-the-top bloodbaths of Tarantino, the cartoon silliness of Lucas & Spielberg & the blowdried stylishness of Michael Mann. His action draws the viewer in without trying to induce sympathy, laughter or vomiting. With a more coherent story & more convincing theme, "Ronin" might have been one of the greatest films ever. As it is, "Ronin" is an exciting, enjoyable thriller if you don't think too much.
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Two parts gin, one part brandy
tieman649 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Of course I'm scared! You think I'm reluctant because I'm happy?" - Sam

"Ronin" offers two films, one by director John Frankenheimer and one by writer David Mamet.

Frankenheimer's flick is a fairly slick thriller which utilises the various tropes, techniques and conventions that he helped popularise in his spy, conspiracy and car racing thrillers of the 1960s and 70s. So we have car chases, 70s snap-zooms, beige trench coats, noir angles, lots of elaborate planning and moody cobblestone scenery. There's also the presence of Michael Lonsdale, who plays the same character here that he plays in Spielberg's "Munich". Incidentally, "Munich" (which tries to replicate the look and feel of classic 1970s thrillers) casts Lonsdale based on his performance both here and in several other seminal 70s thrillers, notably "The Day of the Jackal".

Aside from its car chases (whilst its first car chase is routine, the film climaxes with a masterful 6 minute pursuit) and De Niro's super cool character, Frankenheimer's film remains only a better than average thriller, with some strangely bad cinematography during a few of its day time sequences. It's aged better than most action films in the 90s, but can't touch the classics it hopes to emulate, occupying an uneasy ground between serious spy thriller and bloated Hollywood action movie.

The second film here is by David Mamet, a sort of meta-film about words, art, and the artist's Zen-like quest for personal mastery. In this regard, De Niro is a classic Mamet hero, detail obsessed, always scrutinising, always ten steps ahead, a master of misdirection, always questioning the validity of words and syntax. Like most Mamet films, De Niro is also bound by a strong code and is caught in an elaborate con game, though which he must persevere.

The "Ronin" (or Samurai) and syntax allusions were toned down by Frankenheimer, such that the film only offers a shell of what Mamet intended. In a sense, the Mamet formula is reversed, narrative card tricks and con games jettisoned in favour for blunt action sequences (the film moves from being word-oriented to image-centric). Unhappy with Frankenheimer's finished product, Mamet would remake this film with "Redbelt" and the excellent "Spartan".

7.9/10 – De Niro's character is a blast, especially when viewed as a retired version of Val Kilmer's character in Mamet's "Spartan". Frankenheimer is enough of an auteur to make the rest of the picture worth watching, but only barely so. Worth one viewing.
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