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With the end of the Cold War, Robert De Niro leads a team of five former intelligence agents, working for a woman who hires them to steal a mysterious case at all costs.

Starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone...  View more >

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Reviews Summary

Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"Ronin" is intelligently written, and just as intelligently acted. Standouts are Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno. The biggest appeal to me were the action sequences, in particular the detailed shots of scenes in various French cities, and the accompanying "chase" scenes.

Although the plot is a bit complex, I believe the screenwriters have done a thorough job of setting an easy task before the viewer....and, there is at least one "surprise" appearance I won't give away!

I believe you should see this SOON, as I'm sure it will be the topic of lots of "movie" talk around the cafes and office snack machines!

Jan 25, 2000
First of all....I liked it. This is the latest film of Director John Frankenheimer who recently directed the cable movie "Wallace" with Gary Sinese and the classic "The Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra. Ronin is like a spy retirement film....the characters are all has-beens of various old cloak and dagger societies (CIA, KGB, etc.) who have all been hired to perform another job. Since they are all freelance now, they must work together as a team to accomplish this heist. But because they are all rogue agents, no one knows where each's loyalty lies. Frankenheimer does a good job of keeping the intrigue and mystery going, adds a few gun battles and a bit of politics to make an interesting film. DeNiro was enjoyable to watch, he allowed the other actors equal time to develop their characters, where no one character really overshadowed the others. Bottom line...despite budget cutbacks and the lack of cold war...it is good to know that certain government employees can still find jobs in the private sector.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"Ronin" is the latest effort by legendary director John Frankenheimer ("The Manchurian Candidate", "The Train", "Black Sunday"). And as I watched this film, interestingly enough, I found myself more absorbed by the arresting cinematography of the French cities rather than with the characters or the films plot. "Houston, we have a problem." I am continuously amazed at Hollywoods ability to put bodies into theater seats with the simple, time tested art of "packaging." You know the routine; take a weak script populated with uninteresting characters doing equally uninteresting things, toss in a few car chases, several gunfights and explosions, and top it off with a box office star and name director. With "Ronin", I was soberly reminded of just how effective this "packaging" can be. From the films protracted opening sequence to it's anticlimactic denouement, your left to ponder what goods and services your seven dollars could have gotten you elsewhere. Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno ("The Professional") and three other men are brought together by an Irish woman and her mysterious benefactor, all hired to steal a metal case at all costs. And as important as the contents of the case would seem to be, you are immediately struck by the amateurish quality, of the five supposed professionals tasked to secure it. There is always a magnatism in film to observe those of the underworld plying their trade. But here we are offered a strange collection of seemingly unemployable miscreants, clearly the fringe element of their criminal class. Add ineptitude and the casualness of a cohesive plan to steal the case, and you have the recipe for a real yawner. Additionally, I am always insulted when the universal "fix all" is applied to a faulty script -- sneak in some voice over dialogue during the final sixty seconds to make sure the audience knows what the previous two hours were all about. And despite Frankenheimer's razor-sharp directorial skills, as well as fine performances by DeNiro and Reno, that old Hollywood axiom once again rears it's ugly head: "You can make a bad film out of a great script, but you can never make a great film out of a bad script." Curiously, David Mamet, who co-wrote the screenplay, used a pseudonym. One would assume he was asked to lend a hand in the rewrites, and chose not to upstage the unknown lead writer. And speaking of Mamet, I only wish he had used a pseudonym when he penned that monumental flop, "The Edge." The final word on "Ronin" is: unless your a DeNiro freak required to see his work on the big screen, wait for the rental.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Fast moving action. I found the plot hard to follow. Good acting, lush scenery. Good rental to watch on a cold winter night.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
John Frankenheimer has directed the best movie of the fall thus far.With a top notch cast,great script,and believable action.The plot is rather thin(a group of freelance intelligence agents are after a mysterious box)But the complex script keeps things extremely interesting. Frankenheimer does a beautiful job letting us sit through some very talky scenes where we watch DeNiro and Jean Reno(best performance yet from him)and the rest of the cast do their stuff, and then Frankenheimer follows it up with several great car chases,and many awesome shootouts.The movie keeps you engrossed throughout and never lets up.If you like Mission Impossible you'll probably like this.I enjoyed this better.If you want great acting,and a great action film see this now.It makes alot of action films look.....dull.

Rated R-for intense violence and language

***1/2 out of ****

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Ronin is a series of car chases looking for a plot. The cast does a workmanlike job of holding the attention of moviegoers. The cinematography is spectacular and justifies seeing this film.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie was the worst movie I have seen in a long long time. Even after speaking with friends that have seen it, we all agree the plot is non exsistant. We all agree that we left the theater wondering what the movie was actually about. The relationships between the characters were never really developed and left much to the viewers assumption. The special effects made me feel like I was involved in a giant video game.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie was soooo bad, it didn't feature any trailers before the movie! Not one!When a movie is based on capturing a suitcase,and not once are you told what's in the case,then there is no base for a plot. I don't even remember any credits before the movie!!

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This is one of the most interesting movies I have seen in a long time.It had theaction reminescent of old James Bond flicks. The plot, though a little hard tofollow, was definitely good enough to keep me interested.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
In Japanese legend, a ronin was a samurai whose lord was killed. Left with no one to protect and ashamed that he let his master die, a ronin wandered the countryside often as a killer for hire, or a thief. In John Frankenheimer's Ronin, we meet a band of modern-day ronins.

In a small café in Paris we meet these ronins Sam the American (Robert De Niro) who to our knowledge is ex-CIA, or at least he says he is; Vincent (Jean Reno) from France who is the team's "tour guide"; computer expert Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard) from Russia; from England, weapons expert Spence (Sean Bean); and master driver Larry (Skipp Sudduth) from America.

Deidre (Natascha McElhone), who is under the control of a mysterious man, has brought this international team of "ronins" together. Deidre is told to get together this team in order to steal a suitcase. What's in the suitcase? We don't know. The suitcase is just a McGuffin - or as Alfred Hitchcock, the man who coined this term, defines as an object that we are all focused on, but it really doesn't matter what it is.

For the rest of the movie we follow this team of ronins on their quest to get back the suitcase. We go from shootouts to car chases to shoot outs and back to car chases. If this sounds tedious to you, it is not. I'm sure this repetition would have failed under the hands of a beginner and untalented director, but under the steady hands of John Frankenheimer, it works out really well.

I lost count of shootouts but there were three spectacular chases. Some might argue that three chases in one movie is two too many. But, these car chases are technically brilliant - the logistics of putting three of them together must have been a nightmare. From the tight and fast driving in the claustrophobic and anemic streets of Paris to the weaving and avoiding oncoming traffic, these car chases are the staples for Ronin.

The shootouts get the adrenaline pumping with the zings and whizzes of bullets flying all around. There's nothing like watching Robert De Niro wielding an M-60 and taking out faceless bad guys in a tight alleyway. The sound design for this movie is fully enveloping. For example, there is a scene where one of the ronins is being beat up in a backroom. As the camera pans to another character, we hear the punches and grunts swirl around to the right rear. I turned my head backward to see if it was an audience member grunting or if it was a sound effect. Kudos to the sound design team.

Writers J.D. Zeik and Richard Weisz (pseudonym for David Mamet) put together a script that keeps us wondering who can and can't be trusted. The plot for Ronin is not strong - a bunch of guys look for a suitcase - but it is enough for Frankenheimer to wrap his action around.

It's hard not to compare Ronin with Mission: Impossible. Both Ronin and Mission: Impossible are about a band of spies who have lost their jobs and are out to steal something. Where Mission: Impossible failed is in the action and plot. Mission: Impossible's plot was too tangled to enjoy and the action was thin at best. Had Mission: Impossible, like Ronin, had a strong script and director behind it, it would have turned out to be a much better movie.

The actors in Ronin give stand-out performances. How could they not? These are top-notch actors. Robert De Niro gives an outstanding performance as Sam. His portrayal of Sam is as an overly cautious man who is willing to take calculated risks. In one scene, De Niro gives the perfect bite to a line. After talking another ronin into taking a bullet out of himself, De Niro calmly says, "You think you can stitch me up on your own? If you don't mind, I'm going to pass out."

Jean Reno is a great actor who is sometimes squandered - look at how his talents are wasted in Mission: Impossible and Godzilla. When given the chance to perform, Reno shines. His character of Vincent is a tough Frenchman who is loyal to the people that he can trust. Reno gives an outstanding performance as Vincent.

Bean, Skarsgard, and McElhone all give good performances. Skarsgard, who was the caring teacher in Good Will Hunting, is vicious in Ronin. It was funny to see German ice skater Katerina Witt in Ronin as a Russian ice skater.

I haven't seen any of John Frankenheimer's (The Manchurian Candidate) films other than Ronin. After seeing Ronin, I will be renting Frankenheimer's older works to see more of his style. Frankenheimer definitely has a style, gritty and realistic. He also has a mastery of putting together edge-of-your-seat moments. Something to note Frankenheimer recently won an Emmy for directing the cable TV movie George Wallace.

Worth mentioning is Elia Cmiral's score for Ronin that builds a lot of tension during the film.

Ronin is a white-knuckle thriller. It kept me at the edge of my seat for the full running time and had me flinching during the action sequences. The plot for Ronin is much like the suitcase, it's something that we care about, but don't know anything about. It would have been nice to have a little more plot - but, with a talented director behind the script we forget about the paper-thin plot. Don't Miss Ronin. Ronin makes some of the action movies of the summer look like dramas.


[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Ambiguous Beginning, eye-candy car chases, Ambiguous ending. The hit man who turns out not to be who they thought he was, is allowed to walk away AND is given "severance pay" then told not to remember them because they wouldn't forget him? Come on! How could they remember him, they didn't know who/what he was. The main character is a shinny silver case.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Ronin - Definition: "A samurai without a lord." But this movie takes place in current day France, not feudal Japan. Oh well. A group of hard-a----- embark on a last mission at the end of the cold war. But the mission is a double-cross as the government sees these people as a danger to their institutions. I cared absolutely nothing about the characters or the pointless plot of Ronin, but am almost able to recommend it solely for the quite possibly best car chases I have ever seen in a film. That may sound hypocritical coming from me, the "Substance over Style" guy, but hey, I did say "almost" recommend.

10-point scale rating: 5

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
“Ronin” is a thriller that is so complex and so layered with characters and dialogue, but it is yet so easy to understand. A group of men are assembled to retrieve a case. Plain and simple, right? Well why “Ronin” is loaded with some familiar action elements, it also has some really new ones, and the film reaches a great new high with director John Frankenheimer’s technical ability, while writer David Mamet’s brilliance to offset the viewer with his dialogue. “Ronin” teases the audience into believing the path it takes, yet it goes down another one when it’s least expected.

The chief character is “Sam” (Robert DeNiro), who bands up with a whole group of freelancers. The man from france (Jean Reno), the man from Russia (Stellan Skarsgard), the man from England (Sean Bean), and another American (Skip Suddith), who does the driving.

They are all set up by Diedra (Natasha MacElhone) to retrieve a case that is being held by bad guys and sold to people who can afford it. What’s in it? That’s what I would like to know. Possibly business documents of some sort, or another case, or gold, or money, Bill Clinton’s secret stash of Altoids, who knows? Part of the thrill of the movie is not knowing what is in the case, but we know that is has to be recovered by the bad guys. That’s all we care about. I wish Mamet would fuel more of a “story” here. Here it’s a big barrage of action scenes and a LOT of talking. If it would let us care more about what is happening, then it would REALLY take off.

Still, there is one landmark scene in this film, which will always be remembered. It’s the car chase to end them all, a powerful chase in London (I think, the film moves along at a fast rate) that goes against traffic, then for traffic, then against it, and so on. This, along with all the other dizzying chases, I was thinking of the full throttle assault of the chase in the classic (yet different) “The French Connection”. This chase tops it, however. Its right up with the chase scenes in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Rock”, among others.

While not perfect, “Ronin” is sure satisfying enough to sustain my interest. I liked how the film worked technically and dialogue wise. For instance, the scene where DeNiro is getting a bullet wound removed, and when it is out, he says “Now I am going to pass out”. Its good to have a movie that excites your senses with action, while also satisfying when it isn’t making cars fly everywhere.

Score: ***1/2 out of ****

Technical Review

Picture: 1.5 A horrifying picture that reminded me of the video-to-film transfer of Michael Moore’s documentary “The Big One”. The picture looks as if it is 16mm stock blown up to 35mm. Grain and natural dirt, along with waving lines that suggest a video transfer (!), are apparent throughout. This is a real disappointment in picture quality. However, no flashes or mattes are detected.

Sound: 5 The DTS (and only DTS) soundtrack is powerful with good split surround capability, a music score that extends deep and wide and a powerful front soundstage where the sound goes exactly where it is supposed to. DTS makes the entire film feel real.

Photography: 5 John Frankenheimer shoots well in Super 35, the scope photography uses the entire frame to sustain a powerful composition. I would still recommend the widescreen version to buy on DVD. Watch for the POV shots of the car; very intense stuff.

Length: 121 minutes. Rated R for violence. United Artists.

Jul 21, 2003
One of the best car chases since Bullitt! It starts out a little slow, but then picks up steam and never lets up. Recommended.

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