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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Drama > Action > Mystery > Ronin (1998/MGM Blu-ray)

Ronin (1998/MGM Blu-ray)

Picture: B Sound: B Extras: C- Film: B

PLEASE NOTE: MGM has licensed the film to Arrow in a all-out deluxe Blu-ray edition with plenty of extras, better sound and a new 4K transfer of the original camera negative you can read more about at this link...


When the 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 De Niro 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.

The New 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?

Well, 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. De Niro is joined by a cast that has become more familiar since its release, including Jean Reno, Sean Bean, Johnathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard, Natascha McElhone and Katarina Witt. We also get an interesting appearance by Michael Lonsdale.

David 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 De Niro 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.

The 1080p 2.35 x 1 MPEG-2 @ 18 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-inch 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.

That is 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


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