"As the Case May Be"
Starring Robert DeNiro, RONIN features an international group of hired criminals in France who seek to recover a secret case bound for sale to the Russians. With a heavy dose of James Bond thrills, RONIN features fast cars, exciting locations, foreign accents, stylish clothes, intelligence operations, and, of course, shoot-outs and explosions, yet no fornication.
In times of old, Japanese Samurai warriors served one master as trained bodyguards and skillful practitioners of physical and mental feats. When a master was killed, many Samurai hired themselves as mercenary warriors, thieves or assassins. They were then called the Ronin. RONIN, the movie, features an international group of hired criminals in France who seek to recover a secret case bound for sale to the Russians. With a heavy dose of James Bond thrills, RONIN features fast cars, exciting locations, various accents, stylish clothes, intelligence operations, and, of course, shoot-outs and explosions, yet no fornication.
Directed by John Frankenheimer, who created the MOVIEGUIDE acclaimed MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and the MOVIEGUIDE panned ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, the story begins with a beautiful Irish woman named Deirdre (Matashcha McElhone), who assembles an international group of Ronin. The most intelligent and most meticulous of the group is an American named Sam, played by Robert DeNiro. Other members include French weapons expert Vincent (Jean Reno) and German computer expert Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard).
Deirdre tests the group’s ability to work together by placing them in the middle of a sour weapons deal. A few members are killed, and others prove to be ineffective. The real operation is the recovery of a secret case. Deirdre makes this a need-to-know operation, only revealing that a Russian terrorist group desperately desires this case. She doesn’t even say what is inside the case. Through clever planning and some A-TEAM type positioning, the plan goes down smoothly, but Gregor has his own plans for the case, steals it, and goes on the run. Eventually, Sam and Vincent team up to find Gregor and retrieve the case so that they can receive payment. Deirdre reveals her dubious intentions, and a shoot-out ensues during a Russian ice skating exhibition, with tragic consequences.
Sleek, well-edited, well-cast, and at times very thrilling, RONIN holds its head higher than most action fare, while remaining essentially a simple crime story. It doesn’t have dumb one-liners, nor does it have any sex scenes to muddy the plot. Nevertheless, RONIN cannot be considered morally justifiable. After all, it is about criminals for hire, even though it doesn’t take the low road in entertainment.
RONIN does bog down about 3/4 of the way through, with a grisly bullet removal scene, and a slow exposition about the original Ronin warriors. Also, the ending seems too reminiscent of MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, where an innocent is killed by a sniper in the rafters. Other scenes have innocents killed, too.
Like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, which also featured Jean Reno, this movie has high production values, clever cinematography and hip locations, plus a few nods to Christianity. In many ways, it has the same attitude and feel as DeNiro’s previous crime story, HEAT. Featuring Russian terrorists, a secret suitcase and chase scenes, it achieves what THE PEACEMAKER only aspired to be. Finally, with speedy chase scenes through Paris in Mercedes vehicles, it seems more than ironic and coincidental to the death of Princess Diana, giving a creepy, if not disrespectful, nod to her fate.
With summer breaking into fall, RONIN represents action movies stepping into character and plot driven pieces, rather than special effects extravaganzas. Without being completely original, it features fine direction and acting for the adult action seeker.
(Pa, C, LL, VVV, A, D, M) Pagan worldview of work-for-hire criminals, with a Bible verse quoted & a church choir singing; 12 obscenities & 2 profanities; heavy action violence including non-bloody shooting, a bloody point blank shooting, car chases, explosions, beating, & man burned by coffee; no sex but kissing; no nudity but some skimpy costumes; alcohol use; smoking; and, image of bloody wound & grisly removal of bullet.