While certainly not the most famous of Rober DeNiro’s vast performance catalog, Ronin certainly ranks as one of his more unique. Paired up with Jean Reno, Ronin went on to garner fair critical praise, especially when you consider that this film amounted to nothing more than a slightly more intelligent action/adventure romp. The film didn’t score much at the box office, bringing in a paltry $41 million, but since its release the film has garnered it’s fair share of fans and it’s been no stranger to the home video format, with two DVD releases under its belt and now this Blu-ray release which marks the first time the film has seen release in high-definition.
The Cold War may be over, but a new world order keeps a group of covert mercenaries employed by the highest bidder. These operatives, known as “Ronin,” are assembled in France by a mysterious client for a seemingly routine mission: steal a top-secret briefcase. But the simple task soon proves explosive as other underworld organizations vie for the same prize…and to get the job done, the members of Ronin must do something they’ve never done before — trust each other!
Quite frankly until I saw this Blu-ray announcement I’d forgotten all about this movie. I think I’d seen bits and pieces of it over the years but never the thing in its entirety. The film certainly was entertaining enough in appearance, with plenty of guns firing and action to keep it moving along at a brisk pace, yet I’d never tracked it down to actually watch it. And, after watching it from start to finish for the first time, I gotta say it’s a pretty solid action flick. There’s nothing special in the least about it, as after watching films like the Bourne trilogy, it’s hard to really not say “meh, seen it.” Yet even with its lack of uniqueness, Ronin is entertaining if just solely for the scenery and to simply not see DeNiro settling into a familiar scenario.
Also particularly interesting to me was that Natascha McElhone, whom I’ve come to know courtesy of Californication, had quite the big role in this film. I figured she was a relative unknown when I first started watching the Showtime series, but here she was, toe to toe with Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno. On top of that she was packing an Irish accent, which was in of itself an entertaining thing to hear, so there was definitely plenty to enjoy here even if the film is a bit dated (it is, after all, now eleven years old).
I wondered why Fox paired this with Vanishing Point in terms of release dates and then after watching the film I realized why. Two of the most engaging and entertaining segments of Ronin were the two frantic car chases. Amidst the on-foot action and blazing guns, it was the car chases that were truly entertaining. Whether it was the drifting around corners from the Audi or the absolutely nuts car chase through tunnels and highways towards the final act of the film, Ronin certainly didn’t disappoint in the “Oh crap, that was cool!” department. Whatever it lacked in originality, the film more than made up for in exciting visuals.
Of course the double crossing and betrayals got a bit old after awhile, but in the end Ronin is just a step above the rest in terms of popcorn entertainment. DeNiro brings all the right cards, while Reno makes for an unlikely pairing that simply works. Overall a solid film and one worth checking out if you haven’t already. Recommended.
Fox brings Ronin to Blu-ray with the same cover art as the 2006 DVD release, but with none of the extras from the loaded two-disc edition. The disc itself sports the same art as the cover and menus are simple and easy to navigate. I have a feeling this was supposed to be part of Fox’s early waves of Blu-ray’s as the inclusion of zero extras and the old “style” of packaging (denoted by the black bar along the bottom of the cover art) is used. Not to mention the MGM HD insert is a bit dated inside the packaging.
Video here is strong, as the 1998 production still looks fantastic. The MPEG-2 (@18mbps) is yet another indication that this is an old release that never got put back on the schedule until much later (and was eventually paired up with another car chase movie, Vanishing Point), but it still looks great. The video is crisp and clear, with plenty of detail and very little indication of any attempt to flush the grain off the image. The audio, a 5.1 DTS-HD power house, is exciting and robust, with great surround usage and plenty of subwoofer activity. Also included is an English Dolby Surround 5.1 track and French, Spanish, Korean and Cantonese subtitles.
Extras? Nothing. At all. Well okay there is the theatrical trailer, but really that’s not even worth mentioning. This is strictly the movie and none of the hours worth of extras, not even the commentary, is brought over alongside the film. A very disappointing release to say the least, as the film is exciting and entertaining and I was really looking forward to watching about some of the production of it…but this release is a total rip. If you own the two-disc edition already, then I’d just hang onto that as this Blu-ray release is completely barebones. Skip It.
Ronin is now available on Blu-ray.