09  JAN

Directed by  John Frankenheimer
Written by  J.D. Zeik, David Mamet
Starring:  Robert De Niro (Sam)
Jean Reno (Vincent)
Natascha McElhone (Dierdre)
Stellan Skarsgård (Gregor)
Jonathan Pryce (Seamus)
Sean Bean (Spence)
Skipp Sudduth (Larry)
Michel Lonsdale (Jean-Pierre)
Runtime: 121 minutes

Sometimes I wonder if it is still possible to produce a really interesting action movie or if this genre is only exploited by B-movies and low-key actors and directors that think that a lame story, some explosions and fights are enough to entertain the audience. Ronin shows that a good story, an intelligent direction and a group of capable actors can effectively raise this genre to very high quality levels.

The meaning of the term 'Ronin' is immediately explained at the beginning of the movie: in feudal Japan, a samurai whose lord has been killed was called 'Ronin' and was forced to wander seeking for someone to hire them as contract killers. We immediately recognize that the main characters of the movie are modern 'Ronin', they are hired by mysterious people to steal a silver case. They plan this mission accurately but unexpected problems and betrayals make the story rather more complicated...

If you think you've already seen many car chases in various different movies, you haven't seen enough of them until you've seen Ronin: big fast cars, small empty roads or crowded highways, camera showing the point of view of the car front, car exploding in a spectacular way. I found no obvious flaws in these action scenes and not even plot holes. This means that the usual 'slow' moments following the intense action cannot be used to think about how stupid the previous scene was, something that happens quite often in this kind of movies!

The actors are all great, particularly Robert De Niro and Jean Reno play two very charming and strong roles. The rather unknown Natascha McElhone also got a very interesting role and marks another successful movie this year after The Truman Show. What makes the characters even more intriguing is the mystery that surrounds them and their past.

Speaking about mysteries, the most important and fascinating one of this movie is: what's inside the briefcase that everybody is looking for? The characters who knows or who are supposed to know never explain this to anybody else, or probably nobody actually knows what's inside, but who really cares? Our 'Ronin' team is not working for a political or religious ideal, they are just payed to do that job and they are doing it in the most professional way.

The ending is rather good, I admit I expected something different (ie. worse!). Some things are not explained and some of the cliches of the genre are completely ignored, which means that some character simply disappears at some point and does not come back in a predictable plot twist near the end! If you completely dislike action movies, Ronin may not make you change your mind but if you are a bit open to this genre then it will surely appeal you as it did for me.

Rating: 8.0  ****

Links:  Official Site




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 02 Jul 1999