Film: Ronin

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Film:

Ronin

Director: John Frankenheimer
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: MGM (Video & DVD)

Robert De Niro stars as an American intelligence operative adrift in irrelevance since the end of the Cold War—much like a masterless samurai, a.k.a. “ronin.” With his services for sale, he joins a renegade, international team of fellow covert warriors with nothing but time on their hands. Their mission, as defined by the woman who hires them (Natascha McElhone), is to get hold of a particular suitcase that is equally coveted by the Russian mafia and Irish terrorists. As the scheme gets underway, De Niro’s lone wolf strikes up a rare friendship with his French…

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Robert De Niro stars as an American intelligence operative adrift in irrelevance since the end of the Cold War—much like a masterless samurai, a.k.a. “ronin.” With his services for sale, he joins a renegade, international team of fellow covert warriors with nothing but time on their hands. Their mission, as defined by the woman who hires them (Natascha McElhone), is to get hold of a particular suitcase that is equally coveted by the Russian mafia and Irish terrorists. As the scheme gets underway, De Niro’s lone wolf strikes up a rare friendship with his French counterpart (Jean Reno), gets into a more-or-less romantic frame of mind with McElhone, and asserts his experience on the planning and execution of the job—going so far as to publicly humiliate one team member (Sean Bean) who is clearly out of his league. The story is largely unremarkable—there’s an obligatory twist midway through that changes the nature of the team’s business—but legendary filmmaker John Frankenheimer (Seconds, The Manchurian Candidate) leaps at the material, bringing to it an honest tension and seasoned, breathtaking skill with precision-action direction. The centerpiece of the movie is an honest-to-God car chase that is the real thing: not the how-can-we-top-the-last-stunt cartoon nonsense of Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon), but a pulse-quickening, kinetic dance of superb montage and timing. In a sense, Ronin is almost Frankenheimer’s self-quoting version of a John Frankenheimer film. There isn’t anything here he hasn’t done before, but it’s sure great to see it all again. —Tom Keogh

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