A Throwback to the Crime Films of the 70's: Ronin (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots

I am not that fond of Ronin. I was excited to see the film in the theater upon it's release in 1998. When I walked out of the theater I had mixed feelings. The film looked great, sounded great, had great actor doing great acting, and yet I found the film lackluster.







THE FEATURES ⭐⭐ 1/2


Ronin red title screen

Close-Up (31m 27s, HD)


This is a recent interview with Ronin's Director of Photography Robert Fraisse. He talks about his early years in France, trying to become a camera operator (his story about this is one for the history books) and then moving onto on films like The Story of OSeven Years in Tibet, and The Notebook. This is a nice piece and should be watched at least once.

You Talkin' to Me? (27m 1s, SD, 1.33:1)

Quentin Tarantino sat down, sometime in 1994, to talk about Robert DeNiro's career. This is a nice little interview that is hampered by the exclusion of so many films. Being that Tarantino likes to name check old and lesser known films, it comes as a surprise that he only sticks to hits. Also, Tarantino is more subdued here than I have ever seen him. He isn't as rapid fire as he usually is. Still, this is worth a watch.

Alternate Ending (1m 49s, SD, 2.35:1, 4x3)

While I like this ending, as it is a lot bleaker than the ending that we got, I can see why they cut it because it comes out of nowhere and doesn't really fit with the rest of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (2m 28s, HD)

Gallery (37 Images)

Oddly silent.

Audio Commentary by John Frankenheimer

Frankenheimer has a long history in the film business and he has made a lot of films, so it should come as no surprise that this track is terrific. Frankenheimer talks about the making of the film, how they shot the action scenes and the script. I was afraid that this track would have been boring, given that a lot of older filmmakers have a tendency to watch the film, but I am happy that it turned out so good.

Archival Features:

          -Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane (17m 45s, SD, 1.33:1)
         
           This is an EPK-style featurette that has all of the principles talking about how hard the
           film was and how much they loved working with each other and director Frankenheimer.

          -Through the Lens (17m 57s, SD, 1.33:1)

           Director of Photography Robert Fraisse turns up once again to take us through the shooting
           of Ronin.

          -The Driving of Ronin (15m 29s, SD, 1.33:1)

           Jean-Claude Lagniez, the stunt-car coordinator, shows us how the car stunts and driving
           was done. At one point Lagniez says that the Paris police told them that they could do
           whatever they wanted to do. Coming from a big city, this is a miracle.

          -Natascha McElhorne: An Actor's Process (13m 57s, SD, 1.33:1)

           This was one of McElhorne's first films and she talks about the shooting process, what her
           mindset was during filming, and working with the cast and crew.

          -Composing Ronin (11m 52s, SD)

           Composer Elia Cmiral talks about his career as well as what the process was for composing
           the score for Ronin. This is the only feature in the Archival Features section that is
           anamorphic. I assume that all of the Archival Features were made at the same time, so why
           is this one 16x9 and not 4x3 like the others? Weird.

          -In the Cutting Room (18m 56s, SD, 1.33:1)

          Editor Tony Gibbs talks about the editing of Ronin.

          -Venice Film Festival Interviews (20m 41s, SD, 1.33:1)

           These interviews are longer versions of the ones that were used in Filming in the Fast Lane.


THE PACKAGING N/A

I can not comment on the packaging for Ronin as this was a review copy sent to me by Arrow for review. I can say that this is a single disc affair that comes packaged in the Arrow double wide clear case with reversible artwork that contains newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon. The booklet features new writing by film critic Travis Crawford. Below is a shot of the packaging, courtesy of Arrow Video's Facebook page. Note: this pic is for the U.K. release, but everything will be the same except for the U.K. rating logo.



THE PICTURE ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Robert De NIro, Sean Bean, Jean Reno, and company sitting around a table

Arrow has given Ronin the 4K remaster treatment and the film looks great. Colors look good (even though the film doesn't have the biggest color palette.) and the blacks are deep. Detail is very high here even in shots you wouldn't expect it to be high in. The transfer has been brightened in some areas where it had been darkened on the previous blu-ray. All in all, Ronin looks great.


THE AUDIO ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Natascha McElhone and Robert De Niro taking a picture

When Ronin was released on blu-ray back in the day, the transfer disappointed a lot, but the sound was almost universally praised. This being said, it should come as no surprise that the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track shines here. The track sounds great throughout the film, giving the dialogue a great amount of attention. Where the track shines, though, is during the action scenes.  These scenes give the surrounds a mighty workout and your ears at buffet of sounds. Explosions sound rich and full and you will swear that bullets are whizzing by your head. The dialogue, mentioned earlier, is crisp and clear and there is no distortion whatsoever.

THE FILM ⭐⭐ 1/2

a car blowing up in France

On a rain-swept night in Paris, an international crack team of professional thieves assembles, summoned by a shady crime syndicate fronted by the enigmatic Deirdre (Natascha McElhone, The Devil’s Own). Their mission: to steal a heavily guarded briefcase from armed mobsters, its contents undisclosed. But what begins as a routine heist soon spirals into chaos, with the group beset by a series of double-crosses and constantly shifting allegiances, and it falls to world-weary former CIA strategist Sam (De Niro) and laconic Frenchman Vincent (Reno) to hold the mission together. 
I saw Ronin when it first hit theaters in 1998. I was getting into the more adult thrillers and thought that Ronin would harken back to the films of the 70s that I was taking in at the time. While the aesthetic and the feel is here, I found the film to be a bit on the dull side. None of the characters are memorable and the dialogue (written by David Mamet) is nothing to write home about. The acting is good overall, but what really impresses are the action scenes. There is a car chase about half an hour before the film ends that blows Michael Bay and most other action directors out of the water. I liked Ronin to a fault and felt that if the rest of the film had lived up to the action scenes, then the film would have played better.

OVERALL ⭐⭐ 1/2

police car driving next to a black car with it's lights and siren on.

Ronin is a fairly forgettable film. The acting and the action scenes are great, while everything else is merely ok. It is a shame that the film wasn't better because the talent involved here is worthy of a better film than this.

The blu-ray, by Arrow Video, is great in the A/V department, but the features are serviceable. I have a feeling that, because I didn't like the film, that the features suffered. This is true for some, but not all of the features. I found some of them to be very entertaining in their own right. If you are a fan of the film, then picking this blu-ray up is a no-brainer. I would not suggest a blind buy on this one though.
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