Ronin(1988), deals with a modern day group of such people. Only difference, most of them are people who have been rendered jobless after the end of the Cold War. Agents , professionals, surveillance experts, spies, people whose services were no longer required by their Governments. In Paris, a mysterious woman called Deirdre( Natasha McElhone), an IRA agent, brings together such a motley group. Spence( Sean Bean), a weapons expert; Larry( Skip Sudduth), an expert driver; Gregor( Stellan Skarsgard) a former KGB computer expert; Vincent( Jean Reno), a person who can procure anything required and the most experienced of the lot, Sam( Robert De Niro), an ex CIA operative. This group has one mission, procure a mysterious briefcase from a group of men. Seamus( Jonathan Pryce), who is Deirdre’s contact informs that the Russians are also bidding for the briefcase.
Spence is exposed by Sam, when a weapon’s deal falls through, and Sam also forces Deirdre to compensate for not providing proper information on what’s in the case, and who they are up against. They do manage to steal the case, from the group, after some spectacular car chases and shooting in Nice. Gregor however double crosses, the team, switches the case, and tries to strike a deal with the Russian mafia, only to be double crossed himself. Well watch the rest of the movie, as we have a series of car chases, shootouts, more double crossing, twists.
Watching Ronin is akin to riding a roller coaster. It does not allow you to pause. This is an out and out guy’s movie, with enough doses of adrenaline and testosterone. It is a typical, guys get together, and lets have some fun kinda movie, with a femme fatale thrown in for good measure. It is also the kind of movie, where none of the characters is black and white, every one is a crook. You are just trying to figure out the jigsaw puzzle, and presto, you have a breathtaking car chase, followed by a shootout. And with so many twists, around, the viewer does have a hard time.
But I guess that is the biggest strength of Ronin. It sets out to be a hard core action movie thriller, and sticks to it. No unnecessary diversions, no love triangles, it just concentrates on what it set out to do. Even the romance between Sam and Deirdre is pretty low key. And what keeps us guessing is the double crossing and twists, you are really not sure, who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.
And yes for all hard core action movie lovers, this has 4 car chase sequences, enough to keep you on the edge of the seat. The first car chase sequence and shoot out is superbly filmed. My favorite is one when Sam chases Deirdre through the streets of Paris. I have seen some great car chases in movies like The French Connection, Italian Job, Bullitt, but this has to be one of most dizzying ones. The cars race through a tunnel at break neck speed, and then they get onto an expressway, where they have to race against the traffic. So you have the two cars chasing each other, and vehicles coming in opposite direction. Just breathtaking.
Also the use of the suitcase as a McGuffin, adds to the mystery quotient. Ok to those who do not know, a Mc Guffin, is a device used in a thriller, around which the story revolves, but otherwise has little relevance. In Ronin, the suitcase is the McGuffin, the entire movie revolves around characters fighting for it, but what is there is not revealed at all. Its up to the audience to draw conclusions. Yep it’s the same way, we have that famous suitcase in Pulp Fiction, we don’t know whats in it, but an entire story is built around it. This term was coined by Alfred Hitchcock.
What prevents the movie from attaining classic status, is it’s loosely incoherent plot. The screenplay is tight, the action is top notch, and performances are good, but a more coherent plot, could have made this a classic.
Ronin works due to some solid performances. Natasha McEllhone is suitably sexy and mysterious as the femme fatale. Jonathan Pryce, makes for an intriguing Seamus, the mastermind. Sean Bean as the weapons expert, Jean Reno as Vincent, Stellan Skarsgard as Gregor all offer excellent support.