mon 20/11/2017

Blu-ray: Ronin | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Ronin

Blu-ray: Ronin

Robert De Niro leads a classy cast through French car chases in thrilling pursuit of a MacGuffin

Jean Reno and Robert de Niro in 'Ronin'

There are three bravura scenes in Ronin that merit the price of acquisition. Two of them are French car chases, one along the twisting alleys of Nice, the other through the tunnels and up the wrong side of the carriageway in Paris. It’s a mark of John Frankenheimer’s punctilious attention to white-knuckle thrills that both chases have individual character. Imagine how bland they’d be now in the age of CGI, when anything is possible and everything improbable (Ronin was released in 1998). You can learn all about them in the extras of this welcome Blu-ray release.

The third scene features Robert de Niro at his incomparable best. Playing a rogue CIA agent who joins a crack team of renegades hired by the IRA to retrieve a briefcase, at a certain point he’s shot in the flank and needs the bullet extracted. The only person who can perform the operation is his French sidekick, a forceps rookie played by Jean Reno. The camera holds fast on De Niro’s face as he instructs his surgeon.

RoninThe briefcase, famously, is a MacGuffin, but it keeps a capable cast busy, including Sean Bean as an SAS wannabe, Jonathan Pryce and Natasha McElhone sporting Ulster accents as Republican terrorists, and Stellan Skarsgård as a bespectacled criminal apparatchik. The romance between De Niro and McElhone is a bit of a MacGuffin, too. Among the bulging package of extras is an alternative ending which explains why their liaison is doomed.

The title is redundantly explained in an opening graphic, then more charismatically elucidated by Michael Lonsdale, who has an aria about the leaderless samurai known as ronin. Is it a coincidence that the word is a near anagram of both Niro and Reno? It’s a mark of a film with furious action sequences and a callous disregard for life (and cars, and market stalls) that it is able to find still moments of contemplation. Ronin is only 20 years old but already feels like a sepia-tinted relic.

@JasperRees

Is it a coincidence that the word is a near anagram of both Niro and Reno?

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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