Thursday, 23 July 2009

"Ronin". A Review of the 1998 Movie now on a 2008 BLU RAY.



"...If You Don't Mind...I'm Gonna Pass Out Now..."

For the first 20 minutes of John Frankenheimer's 1998 brilliant chase movie, you look at the BLU RAY box and wonder where the hell is the improvement? At the time they made it, they weren't of course thinking about future formats and their picture quality exposing limitations - they were just thinking about getting the mood right and setting up the plot. Filmed in a dark alley and then a dim French cafe at night, and staying there for quite a while - the opening clarity isn't great and I find that the BLU RAY format only accentuates this - the deficiencies of indoor lighting. But once you get to the daytime scenes that follow, then the fabulous city locations after that and especially to the close-up shots of the actor's faces, things improve dramatically.

And like that other genius caper movie of the Nineties "The Usual Suspects", not only could you not pay for such a stunning and diverse cast now - "Ronin" has admirably stood the test of time. It bears repeated viewing which of course makes it ideal BLU RAY replacement-fodder.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed the picture improvements - Nastasha McElhone's gorgeously huge eyes - De Niro's mole - Jean Reno's stubble - Sean Bean's sweaty brow - it's all there and amplified. And those fantastic car-chases that "Bourne" surely aped... There's even an unintentionally funny moment when Stellan Skarsgard is in his car with a gun and silencer about to trade the silver case to some dodgy type - you can see the lipstick accentuating his lips - its looks comical. And then that famous De Niro scene where he instructs Michael Lonsdale and Jean Reno to surgically remove a Teflon-laced bullet from his stomach without anaesthetic so he can remain conscious throughout and direct them properly - is just priceless (the title of this review is the dialogue De Niro speaks after the operation is over).

But as other reviewers have noted, the big let down is the lack of extras - and especially the absence of the startling brutal alternative ending where Natasha McElhone's Belfast character 'Deirdre' is involved - it's missing - and many thought it a better ending than the one used in cinema's.

And worse than that - there's no insights? I mean if ever a film deserved commentaries and a more than a few making-of features - then it’s “Ronin”.

Still - a great film - now visually improved - and as wicked a movie as you remember it.

Despite its bare-bones presentation - it's recommended.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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