Picture: B Sound: B Extras: C- Film: B
Cold War ended and the entire Spy Genre did not know what to do with itself,
some smarter action films (Hyams’ Narrow
Margin, Donaldson’s White Sands)
did emerge, but the genre soon reinvented itself, but not before the
thoughtful, action-packed John Frankenheimer thriller Ronin (1998) was made. The
film has an all-star cast headed by Robert DeNiro as one of several spies
involved for a long time in the espionage field, suddenly finding themselves
between hot and cold in a complex caper that opens some old wounds.
World Order constantly proves to be the Old World Order as they become agents
for pay (read ‘Professional Western’ like The
Wild Bunch) and soon discovers something more sinister is going on. Who can any of the trust? Who is behind the chaos? Who will live and who will die?
except for some of the bad guys having problems shooting the stars, the film is
very impressive, from its smart plot, to its stunning car chases (one of the
few anyone will remember since the 1960s) and acting performances that make
this more than just another actioner.
This was the great director’s last major work and a decent-sized hit
people still talk about. DeNiro is joined
by a cast that has become more familiar since its release, including Jean Reno,
Sean Bean, Johnathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Natascha McElhone and Katarina
Witt. We also get an interesting
appearance by Michael Lonsdale.
Mamet was originally a co-writer with J.D. Zeik, but had his name taken off of
the film when he was unhappy with some of it, while DeNiro had an ugly falling
out with the French Government at the time that soured his promoting the
film. Over a decade later, it is still
fresh and could go a few rounds with most films of its kind since including the
last two Brosnan Bond films. Few serious
Spy films have been made since, which is all the more reason to rediscover Ronin, so its arrival on Blu-ray is
something to be happy about.
2.35 x 1 MPEG-2 @ 128 MBPS digital High Definition image may not be totally
what I had hoped from having seen it in a great 35mm print when it opened, but
it is still superior to the previous DVD version. This was shot in the Super 35mm film format
by Robert Fraisse in what remains some of his best work, but there are some
detail limits and some motion blur here and there. France looks great and the editing by Tony
Gibbs is edgy and first-rate. The DTS HD
Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix is good and articulate, but also has some
limits versus how rich and strong it sounded in DTS-equipped theaters and the
old 12” analog DTS LaserDisc, which was state of the art at the time. I recall the original soundmaster being 16
bit PCM, but the sound here is a tad warped at one point and the sound can be a
little more towards the screen at times, yet it sounds good when it kicks in
despite these limits. Though it cannot
compete with the latest films, maybe revisiting the original soundmaster for a
later deluxe edition would be a good idea.
possible since there are only a few trailers here for the extras and none of
the other extras (like featurettes or feature-length Frankenheimer audio
commentary) that were really good. This
is a 25GB Blu-ray and should have been a 50GB with new and old extras, but
maybe next time.
- Nicholas Sheffo