Ronin – Film Review

United Artists DVD
Running Time 116 minutes

If you like car chases and action-thriller movies, then Director John Frankenheimer`s ‘Ronin’ must surely rank as one of the best films of the genre. Ronin takes it`s title from the name given to ancient Japanese Samurai whose Lord and Master had been killed and, now without honour, subsequently became freelance warriors or bandits.

The film is set in present day France (well, 2003 when the film was made) and follows a disparate group of ex-intelligence services operatives (hence ‘Ronin’) recruited by the IRA to obtain a mysterious case by any means and in which several other interested parties are more than keen to get their hands on.

With Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard and Sean Bean among others playing the modern day Ronin, the beautiful Natascha McElhone as their IRA contact, Deidre, and Jonathan Pryce doing a grand job as Shamus, a rogue IRA cell leader on the run, you just know this is a quality production that is going to deliver in spades.

The characterisation is strong and you quickly realise that nothing is going to be as straightforward as a simple robbery as the very well written plot develops to involve numerous twists and turns, the Russian and French Mafia and the changing dynamic of the group as certain of the characters backgrounds are intimated, or in the case of Sean Bean`s character, ultimately exposed.

What really sets this film apart though is the stunning quality and sheer scale of the car chases as the group pursue the enigmatic case – whose contents are never revealed – and involved cars travelling at over 120mph through the streets of Paris and Nice!

With over a hundred cars used in the Paris chase sequence alone, and which will have anyone who regularly commutes to work twitching in their seats, the team of stunt drivers, which included a large number of recruits from the racing driver fraternity, delivers the action in style and gives the viewer a true ‘suspension of disbelief’ as DeNiro`s Peugeot 406 gives the baddies BMW M5 a run for its money. Against the flow of oncoming traffic!

Director John Frankenheimer is of course famous for his love of cars and a number of his films have reflected this passion, and he certainly didn`t seem to have any qualms about giving the cars centre-stage in Ronin. Having the film set in France is also a nice change to the established norm of having similar action movies set in America and seems to make the action and plot somehow far more atmospheric and realistic.

If you`ve ever mulled over the, probably romantic, idea of being an operative in the intelligence community, then the convoluted allegiances in Ronin should bring you to your senses – just who can you trust…?

No, best advice is to keep on putting your savings in your ISA`s and dreaming of your eventual purchase of a DB5 (most likely an old DB7 or even Jaguar XKR, if you`re honest…) and living out your James Bond fantasies in safety as you enjoy watching Ronin.

Probably the best car chases ever filmed – don`t miss this one!


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