Movie Review: Ronin

Posted: May 27, 2011 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

You k now what I think? I think they should make the whole plane out of the stuff they make the black box out of. You know what else I think? I think that Ronin is the last great action movie of the 70s. I say that for a few reasons, but the number one is that everything just feels like the 70s here. I should expand it to the late 60s as well, but you get my meaning perhaps. It would fit right in with a night of watching great action/thrillers like The Ipcress File, The Day of the Jackal and The French Connection. You could have made this movie in 1975 and only a few changes in technology would have to be downgraded. Of course, some of those downgrades would change plot points, so lets be glad things are as they are. The point is that this is an old fashioned action movie, the sort they just don’t seem to make anymore. Of course it was old fashioned at the time, which was part of the point, I suspect. Either way, let’s talk about a great action movie…

For an action movie, they sit around this table an awful lot

The outline of the plot is this… A group of mercenaries, mostly made up ex-military are hired to steal a mystery case. Once they steal the case, things fail to go as planned and they’re forced to try and steal it again. That’s a very broad outline for a movie full of twists and turns. You note that I don’t mention who is hiring this band of mercs, which is because it’s never quite clear beyond the principals being Irish. You’ll note I don’t mention what’s in the case, that’s because we never actually find out. And really, if you watch carefully, you’ll find that you don’t get a lot of superfluous information that a movie would normally hand you in the normal course of things. You’re never actually given any more than you absolutely need and you have to really pay attention to get it. You rarely get movies like this now, movies that hand you almost nothing but are also deeply detailed. We sort of lost that sort of thing in the 80s, I think people found that the heavily layered effect was difficult and didn’t net that much more acclaim than simple and explodey.

Negotiations for the office lunch have officially broken down.

So that’s the plot, or the basics of it. I’m not going to go into all the betrayal and chasing for former colleagues across France, because really you should watch this movie for yourself. However, if I haven’t made it clear yet, allow me now to state exactly what sort of movie you can expect to see here. This is a heist movie, where you see the planning, execution and then the chasing down the double-crossing so-and-so. The heist and double cross actually comes fairly early in the movie, so that’s not a spoiler. There are two major car chases in this movie, and a couple of other minor action scenes, but this isn’t actually a big action movie. There is a lot of good stunt work, and excellent stunt driving, but what really holds this movie together are the performances from a really first rate cast.

Little boxes with buttons, is there anything they can’t do?

However, since we’re here, and I’m watching the movie, we might as well talk about the action scenes. What you’ve got is a decent firefight under a bridge in Paris, which is short but you get to hear Sean Bean swearing. That’s useful if you want to re-edit the sound on Lord of The Rings. Then you’ve got the first car chase in Nice and the surrounding area. This is mostly a chase down rural freeways and a little bit of gun play. It’s a good primer for the main event which will come later. Then you’ve got some more gunplay in a Roman arena in Arles. These action scenes get a little more intense until the main event which is the big car chase through Paris. The Paris chase is what all other car chases are to be judged by and the only thing that comes even close in my view is the Moscow Chase in The Bourne Supremacy. However, that chase is a little too chaotic and in Ronin you can tell exactly where you are and what’s going on. In fact, if you go to Paris and look around, you can tell where scenes were shot and while you can’t follow the route on foot, you can follow the route. Not that I tired when I was in Paris or anything. There’s one more little gunfight after the big Paris chase, but it’s a minor point, almost a dénouement really. Still, action wise it’s worth watching.

Yup, they really go there.

Now as for philosophy, the movie actually has some, surprising as that might be. There is a section where the story of the 47 Ronin is explained and brought into context. The greater philosophy is that the spy games that ended in late 80s left us with a lot of spies and no master to serve, making these men like Ronin. It’s not like the whole movie is a meditation on this subject, its one scene that lays out the idea and the movie walks away and lets you have a nice car to take your mind off things. It is nice though, to have the movie admit that there might be more to think about than just what’s in the case.

Nope, no joke, just neat graffiti.

About the only reasons I can think that a person wouldn’t like this movie is if A) You don’t like action movies, B) You think it’s not an action movie unless things explode every four minutes or C) You thought this was going to be more quiet intrigue and less driving cars through Paris at 100 mph. I can honestly see how this might not be your cup of tea, because it is possible for some people to like John Woo more than John Frankenheimer. Otherwise, you should dig this flick. It’s pretty cheap on DVD or you can get it on Netflix. Totally worth your time.

Official Score:
79 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

Would you believe this is what passes for serious detective work in this movie?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s