Ronin


Ronin Information

Ronin is a 1998 crime-thriller film directed by John Frankenheimer and written by J.D. Zeik and David Mamet. It stars Robert De Niro and Jean Reno as two of several former special forces and intelligence agents who team up to steal a mysterious, heavily guarded suitcase while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties and alliances. The film is noted for its car chases through Nice and Paris.

Plot

In a warehouse on the outskirts of Paris, France, Deirdre (McElhone), a young Irish woman who is a member of the IRA, meets with Spence (Bean), Larry (Sudduth), Gregor (Skarsgård), Vincent (Reno), and Sam (De Niro), all of whom are veterans of special operations units. Deirdre briefs the men on their mission, attacking a heavily armed convoy and stealing a briefcase, the contents of which is never revealed. Following the briefing, the team begins assembling their equipment, and Deirdre meets with her handler, Seamus O'Rourke (Pryce), who reveals that Russian gangsters are bidding for the case so the team must act quickly to intercept it. Later, Spence is exposed as a fraud and summarily dismissed. The others depart for Nice, France where they observe the convoy for several days and form a plan. They ambush the convoy and pursue the survivors through the surrounding countryside. After a lengthy car chase and gun battle, Gregor betrays the team, steals the case, and disappears.

Gregor first tries to sell the case to the Russians, but his contact betrays him, and Gregor shoots him. He next contacts Mikhi (Atkine), the leader of the gangsters, and threatens to sell the case to the IRA unless Mikhi pays a grossly inflated price; Mikhi agrees. Meanwhile, the rest of the team track Gregor through one of Sam's old CIA contacts and corner him in the Arles Amphitheatre. Following a hectic firefight, Gregor flees, but is captured by Seamus, who kills Larry and escapes with Deirdre. Sam is wounded in the fight, and is taken to a villa owned by Vincent's friend Jean-Pierre (Lonsdale). After removing the bullet and allowing Sam time to recuperate, Vincent asks Jean-Pierre to help him locate Gregor, Deirdre, and Seamus. Meanwhile, Gregor admits to Seamus he mailed the case to himself. Days later, as Gregor and Seamus retrieve the case, Sam confronts Deirdre, who realizes that Sam has feelings for her and will not shoot her. Following a high-speed chase through Paris, Vincent shoots out Dierdre's tires and sends her car over a highway overpass. Gregor emerges from the car with the briefcase and escapes, while Deirdre and Seamus are rescued from the burning car.

Vincent and Sam discover that the case is a type used by figure skaters. Intelligence from Jean-Pierre's contacts also suggest the Russians are involved with figure skater Natacha Kirilova (Witt), who is appearing at the local arena. At the arena, Mikhi, in the audience watching Natacha, receives a call and goes backstage. At the meet, Gregor reveals there is a sniper in the arena who will shoot Natacha if Mikhi betrays him. Mikhi shoots Gregor anyway, the sniper shoots Natacha, and Mikhi leaves with the case and the money. Vincent and Sam follow the panicked crowd out of the arena in time to see Seamus shoot Mikhi and steal the case. Sam runs ahead of Seamus and finds Deirdre sitting in the getaway car. He urges her to leave, revealing himself as a CIA agent pursuing Seamus, not the briefcase. Seamus shoots his way past the crowd, wounding Vincent, back to the arena, with Sam in pursuit. In the final gunfight, Seamus is about to kill Sam, but is fatally shot by Vincent.

Days later, in a Parisian cafe, Sam and Vincent talk over radio broadcasts revealing a peace agreement reached between Sinn Féin and the British government, partly as a result of Seamus's death. They part, and Sam drives off with his CIA contact. Vincent pays the bill and leaves.

Cast

  • Robert De Niro as Sam
  • Jean Reno as Vincent
  • Jonathan Pryce as Seamus O'Rourke
  • Natascha McElhone as Deirdre
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Gregor
  • Sean Bean as Spence
  • Skipp Sudduth as Larry
  • Michael Lonsdale as Jean-Pierre
  • Jan Triska as Dapper Gent
  • Féodor Atkine as Mikhi
  • Katarina Witt as Natacha Kirilova
  • Bernard Bloch as Sergi

Production

Writer David Mamet is credited as "Richard Weisz", reportedly due to disappointment at having to share credit with Zeik (the originating writer). According to Zeik's lawyer, Mamet's contributions were "minor", limited to adding the character Deirdre and most of De Niro's scenes. According to Frankenheimer, however, "The credits should read: Story by J.D. Zeik, screenplay by David Mamet. We didn't shoot a line of Zeik's script."

According to Frankenheimer's recollections on the DVD, there were 2,200 shots used to film the story. He also notes that the film is unusual in containing no wipes, dissolves or similar techniques; all scene transitions are handled with suitably paced cuts.

Ronin is notable for a number of car chases, the last being a particularly lengthy one through the streets and tunnels of Paris; some scenes used up to 300 stunt drivers according to the DVD director commentary, including ex-F1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier. Car work has been a specialty of Frankenheimer, a former amateur racing driver, ever since his 1966 film, Grand Prix. Although action sequences are often shot by a second unit director, Frankenheimer did all these himself, and sometimes rode along. While he was aware of the many innovations in digital special effects since then, he elected to film all these sequences live, to obtain the maximum level of authenticity. To further this, many of the high-speed shots have the actual actors in the cars. Skipp Sudduth did nearly all of his own driving, while other cars were right hand drive models with stunt drivers driving - crashes were handled by a stuntman. To lend additional authenticity, the sound recordist re-recorded many of the vehicles in the chases to ensure that during the editing, the right sounds were dubbed in for each vehicle.

Several cars are used in the chases, including an Audi S8 D2, a Peugeot 406, three Peugeot 605s, a Citroën Xantia and XM, a BMW M5 E34 and Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, a rare Mercedes-Benz W116 variant with a high-powered engine, as noted by Frankenheimer in the DVD. Most famously, a 1998 Audi S8 quattro, portrayed as stolen to order and then fitted with a nitrous oxide power-booster, is chosen for its bulk, grip and torque and driven in Paris and Nice by Sudduth's character. As a result the car is rated 9th in Car magazine's Top 40 Coolest Movie Cars. The Frankenheimer DVD commentary indicates that the cars were towed through the streets of France at high speed, not simulated, by a Mercedes-Benz 500E.

The final scene at the Zénith de Paris had 2,000 extras, according to Frankenheimer.

Porn star Ron Jeremy had a small role playing a fishmonger in Paris whose stall is demolished during the chase, but his scene was cut by the studio when audiences laughed as he was recognized.

DVD and Blu-ray release

The DVD release has an extensive, detailed commentary about the making of the film by Frankenheimer, where he explains the production techniques used to realize the high speed chases.

The DVD's paper insert includes excerpts from a Frankenheimer interview in which he discusses the chase through a Paris tunnel that is remarkably similar to the site of Princess Diana's death on 31 August 1997. The filming took place in a different tunnel, however. "Paris has a lot of tunnels," Frankenheimer commented. "That's part of the thing about the city I wanted people to see. A crash in a tunnel in Paris is about as likely as someone having a crash on a freeway here. It happens all the time." (Rocky Mountain News, September 27, 1998).

The US edition of the original DVD release has several navigational hooks to DVD-ROM content, which were taken advantage of several weeks after the original release of the DVD, on MGM's website during a special 'RONIN' event where viewers would be taken on a guided tour of the making of RONIN. Making of scenes shot during filming are hidden on the DVD. Since they are not present on the main menu of the DVD they can only be accessed on a computer using the DVD-ROM program that is on the disc or using a DVD viewing program that allows navigation through the titles of the disc manually. A "Gold Edition" was briefly introduced on the market by MGM, however is no longer in production.

On October 11, 2004 a two-disc Special Edition of the film was released in the US. This new version contains the same material as the old single-disc version on disc one and on disc two there are supplemental material about the film: one documentary, six featurettes, and a picture gallery.

A Blu-ray Disc edition was made available in 2008, which does not include any of the extras on the DVD versions.




This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ronin_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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