When do we think the last great Robert De Niro film was? I believe Ronin is the film that capped off his career. If you take a look at his IMDb page you can see that after 1998’s Ronin, his choices of movies have been, how do we say this nicely, terrible. Honestly though, if you want to end your career on a high note, Ronin would be the way to do it. It’s a fast-paced thrill ride that doesn’t give up until the final credits roll. Featuring numerous car chases, shootouts, double crosses, triple crosses; Ronin is one film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
I try to avoid recapping a movie in my reviews, and in Ronin‘s case, it would be an entirely complicated thing to do, as the plot is somewhat convoluted when you take in account all the characters switching motives and stabbing each other in the back. All you need to know is that a group of people with particular skills are trying to steal a briefcase (the contents of which we never find out) before the bad guys sell the case to the rowdy Ruskies. Things aren’t so simple, though, as complications start piling up as people in the group have their ulterior motives.
Ronin flows from one action filled scene to the next, continuously upping the ante each time. If the movie does slow down, it’s only for a few minutes, and those slower scenes are still quite entertaining thanks to the performances.
Speaking of the performances, I had a blast picking out all the actors who have starred in James Bond films. We have Sean Bean, who is in the movie and surprisingly doesn’t have something happen to him that typically occurs in everything else he stars in (no spoilers, but I think you can figure it out). We also have Jonathan Pryce, a mysterious Irishman who you will know from Tomorrow Never Dies. Further on the James Bond list is Michael Lonsdale, who played Hugo Drax in Moonraker.
Of course, the highlight of performances goes to our three leading players. First, we have Robert De Niro, who hasn’t yet got his sleeping pill subscription. Second, we have Jean Reno playing a suave Frenchman like he always does. He bounces off Robert De Niro’s character quite well, and the two perform excellently together. Lastly, we have the lead female role played by the beautiful Natascha McElhone. She has plenty to do in the film; she isn’t just your typical damsel in distress.
I watched Ronin on Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release, and it’s interesting to note that Arrow on the back of the cover mentions that this film was like a precursor to the more grounded action flicks that we would come to know like The Bourne Identity. That is very much true, but what I would like to point out is that Ronin does something that most action films tend to avoid nowadays. Director John Frankenheimer and DP Robert Fraisse dared to have the camera be steady and allow the viewer to see what the hell is going on. After vomiting up my lunch on the later Bourne films, I appreciate the steadiness of a movie like Ronin.
Arrow Video has done a superb job on releasing Ronin in a stellar Blu-ray package. The brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative is phenomenal, with no video issues apparent. The audio provided by Arrow is in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo, with the 5.1 sounding fantastic. It certainly fills the room when you listen to the 5.1 surround track. Of course, you can’t forget that Arrow also provides plenty of extra features. The only new feature is an interview with the director of photography Robert Fraisse. Everything else is archival features, but it’s, of course, nice to have everything together in one package.
I think it’s safe to say that Ronin is a guaranteed purchase. The flicks story will keep your eyes glued to the screen and will blow your mind at how many times a double cross can happen in one film. Arrow Video provides a slam dunk once again with their action-packed Blu Ray release. You would be wise to pick it up right away.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director of photography Robert Fraisse
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p)
Original English 5.1 audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer
Brand new video interview with director of photography Robert Fraisse
Paul Joyce documentary on Robert De Niro
Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette
Through the Lens, an archival interview with Robert Fraisse
The Driving of Ronin, an archival featurette on the film’s legendary car stunts
Natascha McElhone: An Actor’s Process, an archival interview with the actress
Composing the Ronin Score, an archival interview with composer Elia Cmiral
In the Ronin Cutting Room, an archival interview with editor Tony Gibbs
Venice Film Festival interviews with Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Natascha McElhone
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork