Faites attention! You can almost inhale the yellow sticks
of Gauloise cigarettes as you watch RONIN, a John Frankenheimer film set in France,
starring Robert DeNiro as a gun for hire who, in the process of recovering a mysterious
metallic suitcase, takes us on car chases familiar only to Mario Andretti.
your Show Biz Maven sat glued to her seat (due probably to the M&M's that had melted
there) thinking that RONIN was really an I-MAX production where 3-D effects prevent you
from dipping into your faux buttered popcorn. In this film, however, sleek Parisian
boulevards shrink to skinny alleys, cars maul down passersby like stalking lions, fruit
stalls are pureed, and no one obeys any traffic signals not that it matters since this is
how things are in France anyway.
DeNiro captures your attention, as he's dark and brooding, and well, DeNiro. From his
suspicious demeanor we gather that he is ready to embark upon a shady deal with strangers
(ex-CIA? KGB? FBI?) in a Parisian bar. Is he running from the law? Are they? Laconically,
as he lifts his wineglass, we know that he's acknowledging his team members of hired
assassins. Call them "Ronin" referring to the ex-samurais of ancient times who
somehow allowed their masters to be killed. Carrying this disgrace around and not being
able to say, in the words of Elton John, "Sorry seems to be the hardest word,"
they wandered the land seeking work as mercenaries.
Fast forward to today and as you might expect, the Ronins are not a pretty crew except
for the leader, an Irish renegade (IRA?) played with coolness by Natascha McElhone.
Frenchman Jean Reno quickly becomes DeNiro's sidekick, but even then we have no clue to
his identity. Stellan Skarsgard is the KGB computer wizard who turns creepy, while
Jonathan Pryce, apart from hawking cars on TV these days, seems destined only for sinister
Their mission of recovering a valise filled with jewels? bombs? money? military
secrets? does not seem impossible, unless the contents are filled with the latest fashion
stolen from K-Mart designers. With their first rendezvous along the Seine, the fun begins.
Before you can say "Allez!" they're in pursuit through the streets of Paris
motoring at speeds and spins of an upside down roller coaster.
Throughout it all, one fact stood out to your Show Biz Maven. As the drivers slowed to
about 200mph, it was obvious that one of the cars was a Citroen. Never again will your
little Maven ridicule a French automobile, for how this brand held up after being driven
by lunatics along the entire cobblestones of Paris remains a mystery. The vehicle was
barely dented, never stopped running, and performed miracles as it was spun around,
stopped and started, took hairpin curves, and did all the mundane things you expect a car
Still pounding the streets in search of the case, the Ronin consulted a Michelin Guide
and wound up in Nice, one of the Maven's best-loved cities. As you might imagine, there
were more car clashes only this time with the backdrop of the French Riviera.
One of the places your Show Biz Maven recognized was Vieux Nice (Old Nice), home of
chic fashion where by now all shopkeepers know the Maven by her withered looking credit
cards. Unfortunately, no one had time to peruse or find a bargain, as a new batch of
people were killed and this almost included DeNiro who hobbled into a stranger's villa
(ex-CIA?) to have a bullet extracted without any anesthesia. Please, if any children are
reading this review, do not attempt this at home!
RONIN, written by David Mamet and J.D. Zeik, has witty lines all spoken, of course, by
DeNiro. When someone asks him whether he has ever killed anybody, he replies, "I hurt
someone's feelings once." To round out the sequence of events, Olympic skater
Katarina Witt plays a Mafia girlfriend. Don't ask what happens to her. All the Maven will
tell you is that she winds up on thin ice. Otherwise, DeNiro is back where he belongs. Do
Run, Run, run, Do Run, Run.