Directed by John Frankenheimer.
Starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce.
John Frankenheimer was a master of thrillers in his day, and one of his last, Ronin, arrives again on Blu-ray with a new 4K scan of the film courtesy of Kino Lorber. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good one that’s highlighted by a solid cast and a pair of over-the-top car chases, so if you haven’t checked it out before, this is a perfect opportunity to do so.
Come for Robert De Niro, stay for the insane car chase sequences. De Niro headlines a solid cast in John Frankenheimer’s 1998 film Ronin, which was one of the last of his storied career. Like the crew assembled for the heist, De Niro, Stellan Skarsgård, and Sean Bean highlight a cast that also includes the always-interesting Jonathan Pryce.
During Japan’s feudal era, Ronin were masterless samurai who wandered the country looking for whatever jobs they could find. Likewise, the men who come together to steal a mysterious metallic briefcase that’s also coveted by the Russian mafia. Of course, there’s a reason why they’re all freelance operatives, and when one of them double-crosses the others, the pursuit becomes a three-way affair.
Taking place in various locations in Europe, Nice and Paris stand out as the locales where two incredible car chases happen. Both of them are perfect examples of screenwriters squeezing the lemon, as they say, to get every last drop of juice from it. Just when you think a pursuit has run its course, it continues with even more twists and turns.
To be honest, Ronin’s script is fairly pedestrian, despite the great David Mamet’s involvement, but it’s still a tour de force of great performances and thrilling action sequences. I could watch De Niro just read from a phone book for 15 minutes.
Kino Lorber has issued this one in both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray editions, and I received the latter for review. The company commissioned a new 4K scan of the film, and you won’t receive any complaints from me regarding its quality. I haven’t owned previous home video editions of this movie, but my understanding is that the image quality here is an improvement over previous releases, including Arrow’s 2017 Blu-ray.
The extras have all been ported over from previous releases going back to the DVD days, but they comprise a pretty comprehensive look at the movie. They start with a commentary track with Frankenheimer, who does an excellent job of discussing all aspects of the making of the film. He was a consummate professional, and it shows here. The rest of the bonus features include:
• Close-Up: Interview with Cinematographer Robert Fraisse (31.5 minutes): The film’s director of photography discusses not only Ronin but the rest of the films in his career too. From what I’ve read, this featurette was new to the Arrow Blu-ray edition.
• In the Ronin Cutting Room with Editor Tony Gibbs (19 minutes): As the title says, this is a chat with the film’s editor, who was responsible for making sure those car chases kept viewers’ eyes glued to the screen.
• An Actor’s Process with Natascha McElhone (14 minutes): She played Deirdre, who assembles the team on behalf of her boss played by Jonathan Pryce, and here she discusses her approach to the role.
• Composing the Ronin Score with Elia Cmiral (12 minutes): I’ll admit I’m not someone who pays a ton of attention to film scores, but I always appreciate it when the composers of said music get their due. After all, their contribution is vital to the making of a good film.
• The Driving of Ronin with Stunt-Car Coordinator Jean-Claude Lagniez (15.5 minutes): Those wild car chases are discussed here.
• Through the Lens with Cinematographer Robert Fraisse (18 minutes): While another featurette with Fraisse might seem redundant, this one has plenty of behind-the-scenes footage too.
• The Venice Film Festival Interviews with Robert De Niro, Natascha McElhone, and Jean Reno (20.75 minutes): The title of this one is pretty self-explanatory.
• Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane (17.75 minutes): This is a pretty basic old school making-of featurette, but it does have some great behind-the-scenes footage.
• Ronin: Alternate Ending (2 minutes): Apparently Frankenheimer wasn’t sure how to end the film, but I don’t think this version would have been better than the one he settled on.
The film’s trailer rounds out the platter.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★