- Robert De Niro as Sam
- Jean Reno as Vincent
- Natascha McElhone as Deirdre
- Stellan Skarsgård as Gregor
- Sean Bean as Spence
- Skipp Sudduth as Larry
- Jonathan Pryce as Seamus O’Rourke
A thrilling and exhilarating spy thriller cast to perfection and filled with excitement and intrigue, Ronin blends political undertones with pulse-pounding action for a film that will leave you breathless.
Ronin begins with a group of operatives from different agencies who have turned mercenary meeting in Paris. Present are quick thinking Sam, unassuming Vincent, getaway driver Larry, German tech expert Gregor and Spence . Assembling them is Irishwoman Deirdre, who informs the men of why they have been summoned. They are to obtain a metallic briefcase from Nice, of which the contents remain clouded as her superiors won’t reveal what is inside it. Doing this won’t be easy as it is heavily guarded, yet with all the skills of the group it could be achieved. Yet each of the group is weary of the other and simmering distrust builds slowly. Spence is exposed as a fraud by Sam and subsequently dismissed for his gung-ho attitude. Despite this hiccup, Deirdre sets in motion the plan with all involved receiving money and if they can get their hands on the case a larger sum. They put the plan into action and initially it seems as if the case is in their sights and for the taking. Yet loyalties become blurred and betrayals take centre stage as everyone vies for the case and the hunt begins for the mysterious object. In the game of spying, trust is something hard to come by and that is especially the case as Sam teams with Vincent to discover who out of the team is lying and what the case could possibly represent for the respective parties willing to kill for it. The chase is very much on in this spy thriller.
John Frankenheimer is excellent in his direction of Ronin; creating a sense of unease right from the slow-burning start. He is well equipped at building tension before unraveling the divided feelings and machinations of the group as they pursue each other for the mysterious briefcase( which in itself takes influence from Alfred Hitchcock and his love of the MacGuffin). A scintillating and cool script offers up exciting action and well-rounded characters in a constant game of dangerous cat and mouse. I like to be surprised in a spy thriller and it was provided in many forms in Ronin. Red herrings are tossed in and with all the distrust on display, it is a maze of a story that grips like a vice. The fact that the characters all have mystery to them about their affiliations and past careers gives the brain an exercise as you try to pinpoint who among the international crew is betraying who and the loyalty of each. A part of Ronin that marks it out as something special is its refusal to dumb things down for the audience. It treats them with respect and allows their imaginations to fill in what isn’t said between people. The spectre of the Cold War is very much on the film and this in turn aids Ronin with the political slant and the feeling of an old-fashioned movie, sparked with modern intrigue. As convoluted and complex as the story becomes, Ronin doesn’t short change us on the action front. And when I say action, my oh my there is some creative highlights present. Most of all it is the car chases through the streets of France that provide the appealing and gripping centre of Ronin. These car chases are not glamorized and achieve a realistic edge to them that sets it way above the average chase scenes. You are left gasping for breath at the sheer intensity of these frenzied pursuits and that is in the best possible way. A classy and building score is just the ticket for conjuring the necessary tension and ghost of the Cold War that weighs heavy on the characters.
Whoever assembled the vast international cast of Ronin deserves a massive pat on the back as they did superb in their selection. Heading it is the wonderful Robert De Niro in a fantastic performance. With a quick wit, keen intellect and cynical attitude, his Sam is a character that we root for in the scope of the shifting maze of loyalties. He shares great chemistry with Jean Reno, who is equally as good as the quiet but very skilled Vincent. Out of the group of characters, these are the two that have an implicit trust throughout and have each others back. And with De Niro and Reno in the roles, they come to life vividly. As the lone female of the cast, Natascha McElhone infuses Deirdre with an icy personality and stand offish tendency, which makes her even more mysterious in the cloak and dagger proceedings. Stellan Skarsgård is marvellously cast as Gregor, who appears to be on the sidelines in the initial stages but reveals an unseen ruthlessness as the mission gets more intense. Sean Bean is present in mainly the first half of Ronin and he has the right bravado for his part as the lying Spence, who doesn’t quite have the stomach for this kind of spy work. Skipp Sudduth as the getaway driver has a smaller role that is still impressive, along with Jonathan Pryce as someone very interested in the briefcase too.
Ronin is everything you could ask for in a spy film. It has atmosphere, excellent characters and espionage unease. Not to mention the fact that it knows how to deliver the thrills when needed and blow you away.