Ronin (1998) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Drama / Thriller
MGM || R - 121 minutes - $34.98 || March 4, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-02-28


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: John Frankenheimer
Writer(s): J.D. Zeik (story), J.D. Zeik and Richard Weisz (screenplay)
Cast:


Theatrical Release Date: September 25, 1998


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean

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.::THE FILM::.

“No questions. No answers. That's the business we're in. You just accept it and move on.”

John Frankenheimer’s Ronin features probably one of the best car chases (laughable pyrotechnics and all) alongside Bullitt, The French Connection and The Bourne Ultimatum. Unfortunately I don’t think this film gets the attention or props it deserves because in my book, Ronin is one of my personal favorites.

It’s not that the movie is anything special, it really isn’t. Sure, De Niro is great and the supporting cast of Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgård and Natascha McElhone are all fantastic but the plot, an espionage movie that may or may not be an espionage movie, is well constructed.

The basic plot for Ronin is about a group of individuals brought together in France by unknown persons (revealed to the audience anyway) to steal a briefcase with unknown contents, a briefcase wanted by Russians who want it very badly and can pay but also by the Irish who want just as bad but don’t have the cash...

The team hired to get this briefcase have various skills: ex-CIA agent Sam (Robert De Niro) is an all-around skills man who can dissect situations; Frenchman Vincent (Jean Reno) is there to provide location support and is able to get the team anything they need; Gregor (Stellan Skarsgård) is the techie able to program computers and get coordinates and whatnot; Larry (Skipp Suddth) is a skilled driver; and the “team” leader is Deirdre (Natascha McElhone) is the woman in charge of them all and gives them any need-to-know information on the heist.

Ronin certainly is not one of the best espionage movies ever made, hell probably not even one of the best, but every time I’ve watched it (now 5 or 6 times over the years), I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And it comes as no surprise that when watching you can immediately feel the presence of one David Mamet; he’s credited as Richard Weisz due to issues with the WGA. You don’t have to look hard for his contribution to the dialogue in classic Mamet fashion: “What's the color of the boathouse at Hereford?” or “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That is the first thing they teach you.”

I know some take issue with the story and the twists and turns (the assassination of a figure skater), I’ve immensely enjoyed this film not only for its sharp and crisp dialogue, as realistically unrealistic as it is, but for the shear screen presence of Robert De Niro and Jean Reno, two veteran actors who have some of the best onscreen friendship chemistry.

The rest of the cast are actually not too bad. First we have the always great Stellan Skarsgård, post James Bond villain Sean Bean in a small thankless (though funny) role, plus Jonathan Pryce and the lovely Natascha McElhone round out a solid cast.

As I said, this is not a perfect film with some flaws, but for its genre and a generally fantastic cast along with the late John Frankenheimer’s fantastic chase sequence, Ronin is well worth your time if you still have not seen it. This is a personal favorite of mine and even after seeing it several times, I’m certain I’ll watch and enjoy it over and over in the future.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

For some odd reason, all we get is the theatrical trailer for Ronin. That’s right, the commentary and featurettes were not ported over.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

I found the video transfer at times to be a little soft but overall it’s still a nice looking high-definition movie. It is presented in 1080p HD (on a 25GB disc) with a 2.35 aspect ratio. Colors are pretty much matted so there’s no real eye-popping visuals save for a couple explosions in the third act.

The Blu-ray comes with a lossless DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio that sounds fine and everything is pretty clear from the dialogue through the center speaker to the sound effects which make use of the other speakers. However, I also was not blown away by any of it. I thought the audio was fairly lightweight compared to what I expected from a DTS HD track, even for a movie that’s now 11 years old.



.::OVERALL::.

If I had one hesitation in recommending this Blu-ray release, it would be the fact MGM (Fox) failed to port over any of the features from the 2-Disc Collector’s Edition as the picture is actually not too bad and the audio is a slight step up from previous releases. That said, if you can find this on sale down the road, go ahead and give it a chance, whether you own the DVD or not.