Oct 28, 2009
Boy, for someone who just wrote about not enjoying writing about movies, I'm sure contradicting myself quick.
Last night I watched Ronin for what must be the 50th time, and like every other viewing it still strikes me how good a movie it is. I'm always amazed at how unknown this movie is to many people, and if I remember correctly when it came out it merely did ok at the box office. What a crime.
What I like about Ronin, what makes the movie for me is how un-movie like it often seems. Now don't get me wrong, I've never been an intelligence operative or worked in special ops, but the movie sure seems real enough to me.
Among the things that stand out, and one feature of the film often talked about, is the car chases. For one thing, they use real cars. No Minis, no Porsches, no James Bond supercars, just Audis and Mercedes, cars that have the muscle but don't scream 'Hey, I'm about to be involved in some shit here!' In addition, when the car chases occur, there are no huge explosions or insane jumps. To spotlight another smart choice, even the weapons used are used sparingly and without any amazing Rambo-style stunts. The characters themselves are shown to be fallible and vulnerable, as their plan doesn't work out perfectly on the first try and one of the principals gets shot.
Beyond these authentic touches, at least to the layman, what the film refuses to do is pander to the audience. Not everything is explained, and the motives of characters are murky at best in most cases.
To quote the film, though, 'there is something more.' I think one of the most appealing aspects of Ronin is the interjection of spirituality, for lack of a batter word, into a world often portrayed as flashy and empty. Take the last few James Bond movies, for example, where Bond is largely a brutish machine, showing moments of emotion but mostly relied on for fists and fury. Ronin takes a different path, with several scenes of discussion between Robert De Niro and Jean Reno on the nature of what they are doing, who they are doing it for and why. Even more critical, there are no real answers.
Speaking of the two leads, what a team they make here. So often these spy movies try for the buddy angle, or the straight man and loose cannon combo, and in many cases both archetypes feel forced or just boring. Ronin, again, takes a different path. Sam and Vincent will clearly never be vacation buddies, but each instantly sees a kinship in the other that bonds the two. As the film goes on, there is a sense of professionalism that develops into something as close to friendship as these men can truly have. By the end, it is clear that the two have each others backs covered, and it makes complete sense.
I could really go on about this movie for hours. I haven't even touched the subtly wonderful score, another I bought right after seeing the film. If you want to see a modern spy movie that asks you to think a little, take the time to watch Ronin. It really does deliver something special.