Ok so maybe this isn’t one of those “best films you’ve never seen” types but for the purpose of this piece I’ve not once seen it recommended on my Netflix home screen so that’s enough. Ronin is a relic of days gone by, pre-excessive CGI, when action flicks rested their success heavily on some script smarts and the ensemble cast such as what you see here.
Ronin came about in 1998 at the tail end of a Euro-action buzz Hollywood was on with the likes of The Peacemaker and Mission : Impossible. Seeing the big stars outside of typical American surroundings brings an instant ‘other’ quality to these films and that trend is continued here. Set in France, accompanied by a haunting soundtrack and directed with an old school style by John Frankenheimer; you get a little bit of everything across these two hours.
Headed up by Robert De Niro the cast includes Natascha McElhone, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard and Sean Bean who are all part of an IRA assembled mercenary team tasked with acquiring a case of seemingly huge value. What’s in the case? Who cares. Ronin acknowledges the importance of developing the viewer’s attachment to characters whilst also providing great spectacle, not least of which is the absolutely thrilling car chase that takes the centrepiece of the film.
Sadly, this film marks a lot of lasts – last time De Niro truly headed up a top notch film outside of comedy, last time Jean Reno wasn’t a parody of himself and mostly, it was the last of a line of great late eighties/nineties films that just knew good action. Watch it and pay attention, make sure to spot the subtleties that just don’t exist on this scale or budget today. Also, for the love of God just pretend Jonathan Pryce’s accent isn’t happening. Yes, there had to be a negative and Pryce playing an IRA boss is a fairly big one. But we’ll forgive it for that soundtrack.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org