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Lesson Number 3

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.

david rhodes
nine and a half years ago

The one thing that does wind me up is when DeNiro is attacking Bean...

\\\"what colour is the boathouse at Hereford?\\\"

He says \\\'hear ford\\\' instead of \\\'herreford\\\'

Small matter but given the importance and context of the question, not to mention the standard of the movie, unforgivable.

nine and a half years ago

Stazi connections?? Interesting, I always just remembered that she was a figure skater with an actual figure who appeared in Playboy. What are these stazi connections you speak of?

david rhodes
nine and a half years ago

From what I recall, he was saying she was an informer of some description. It was to gain favour in some respect.

To be honest, i\'d never really thought about it again until today. Alex was prone to hysterics (uncharacteristic for a German). Just had a quick google and got this...

It does back up what he was upset about.

Big Dave (OZ)
nine and a half years ago

I must agree, Ronin, is one of my all time favorites, no weak points I can think of, Jean Reno and Robert De Niro are absolutely the best.
Can\'t say I\'m surprised about Witt, I would think any athlete in an eastern bloc country who competed at international level would have to have some skeletons in their closets. Especially the more successful ones.

Dave (UK)
nine and a half years ago

What Big D said. Ronin is on my shelf and a brilliant film, particularly because Sean Bean plays his typical coward/selfish role and gets written out fairly rapidly. The first film I saw Reno in; he almost made me want to be French!


David Rhodes
nine and a half years ago

Good write up Joe!

One of my favourites for sure. Frankenheimer was a god of car chases- see his BMW short for more.

Just as a side note, the apparently peculiar choice of the old mercedes was made partly because that car was used in a legendary movie short called Rendezvous. An unedited nose cam POV through Paris at dawn.

Worth checking this out on YouTube if you haven\'t already.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not a Ferrari, though a Ferrari engine note was dubbed over it for effect.

nine and a half years ago

Ha! As an aside, I first saw this film with my flat mate who was east german by birth. When katarina Witt appeared, he went nuts.

Apparently, her stazi connections are still a sore point for some.