Ronin (1998) – A Movie Review

Ronin is some kind of crime, espionage, action-adventure movie.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Robert De Niro is Sam, a former CIA operative who is signing on to a heist of some kind of important property in a steel case that’s locked to a courier’s wrist and guarded by four cars-full of armed men travelling in the south of France.  We never learn what’s in the case.  Maybe very valuable military secrets maybe unobtainium.  He has been hired by a woman named Diedre with a decidedly Irish brogue.  He is joined by a team of men to pull off this assignment.  Sean Bean plays Spence, allegedly a former British special forces soldier.  Jean Reno plays Vincent a French soldier of fortune.  The last gunman is someone named Larry who never seems to display any real characteristics.  And Gregor who is a German former KGB agent is the technical asset.  He uses electronics to monitor the activities of the couriers and provides information on their route and timetable.

While retrieving the guns needed for the mission the team is ambushed and it is quickly learned that Spence is a fake and has no experience as a soldier.  He is paid off by Diedre and dismissed.  Sam and Vincent gravitate to each other as the two men who have the best idea about how this mission will go down and they have each other’s backs during the ensuing events.  Also, it’s obvious that they share a similar outlook on the world they inhabit.

We find out that Diedre’s boss is an ex-IRA soldier named Seamus O’Rourke played by Jonathan Pryce.  He hangs back from the team only contacting Diedre to monitor the team’s progress.

The attack on the courier is carried out.  Enormous quantities of bullets and other explosives are expended, incredibly difficult car chases ensue and finally all of the target team is killed.  Finally, Gregor takes the case from the dead courier.  But he makes a switch with the real case and hands off an explosive case that Sam barely discovers and tosses away in time to avoid killing the rest of the team.

Now Diedre and her team must locate Gregor before he can sell the case to his old employers the Russians.  More car chases ensue and eventually Gergor is tracked but before the team can capture him Seamus rejoins the story.  He orders Diedre to abandon the team and the two of them capture Gregor and drive off with him.  In the incident Seamus kills Larry against the feeble protests of Diedre.

Sam locates Seamus and they have an even more unbelievable car chase running the wrong way on an expressway.  Eventually Seamus, Diedre and Gregor’s car crashes.  Gregor manages to escape with the case and Seamus and Diedre barely escape the burning car.  When the authorities arrive Sam and Vincent retreat from the scene.

Now Sam and Vincent regroup while Sam has an inconvenient bullet removed from his side and they work out where they think Gregor will meet with the Russians to sell the case.  Of course, there’s a very convenient Russian Ice Ballet show in Paris so away they go.

At this point every one but Sam and Vincent betray everyone else in a hopscotch of double crosses.  Gregor has a sniper ready to shoot the Russian mobster’s girlfriend, the skater, if he isn’t allowed to leave with his money.  The Russian shoots Gregor and abandons his girlfriend to the sniper and flees the arena.  Seamus shows up as a security guard and shoots the Russians and takes the case.  He also shoots Vincent who was right behind the Russians.  Sam finds Diedre in the getaway car and warns her that he is still an active CIA agent and is after Seamus not the case.  He lets her escape and now without an escape route Seamus turns and shoots it out with Sam.  Sam is hit in the shooting arm and Seamus prepares to finish him off.  But a wounded Vincent shows up in time to dispatch Seamus.

The movie ends with Sam and Vincent saying goodbye at a bar.  Vincent reads that Sam was hoping Diedre would show up to see him.  Vincent lets him know that doesn’t happen in real life.  They part as friends.

This is a pretty wild adventure movie.  The car chases are way, way over the top.  But by the same token they’re technically very well done.  The acting is what you would expect in an action-adventure movie.  De Niro and Jean Reno successfully achieve the needed buddy-movie sympatico thing.  Even the feelings between Sam and Diedre weren’t so silly that they ruined the movie.  Seamus, Gregor and the Russians were all very acceptable bad guys.  All in all, I’d say Vincent was the most relatable character in the movie.  Which is something in a movie of this sort.  I would call this a highly recommended movie for someone looking for action adventure with a decent story to it.  For everything else it’s okay.