Volume 92, Issue 15
Tuesday, September 29, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
DeNiro keeps cameras Ronin
By Jason Gray
The term Ronin applies to a group of sketchy characters who must make their living by working for hire. Their hidden motives and agendas swim in an intriguing plot which keeps the truth in the shadows. But like all John Frankenheimer films anything goes.
In his latest film, an infamous suitcase with ambiguous contents must be apprehended by a rogue group of specialists gathered for this specific task. The film's opening is a silent narrative revealing Sam's (Robert DeNiro) mysterious past. This sequence establishes, both discreetly and clearly, the formula by which the rest of the film will abide.
The environment created as a backdrop for this lifestyle is augmented by the movie's style. The film appears to be faded in colour, giving it a raw and gritty atmosphere, perfectly suited for its inhabitants. Restricted narration prevents the audience from knowing anything before the plot twists and the characters make their own realizations.
There is a constant uneasiness amongst the characters resulting from secrets of their past. The audience departs the theatre never quite knowing or understanding the film's full scope. It is that very element of intrigue that gives Ronin its sly, strict appeal.
While the film is illusive in its Tarantino-esque cinematography and scripting, it remains a bit too self-assured. It challenges the audience by withholding information, paralleling the subtlety of the unknown rogue group. This is where the restricted narration truly works for this film.
The film picks up when the first of two phenomenal car chases abruptly ensue. The audience is thrown against the backs of their seats and taken into an adrenaline rush of speed and certain death. The chases are not initially accompanied by music, as all that is heard is the blaze and roar of the powerful engines. Increased film speed and seamless editing engross the audience in what are two of the greatest and most intense car chase scenes ever captured on film. It's like a Grand Prix race through the tight streets and open country of France.
Many of the shots during the chases are from the point of view of the drivers, which accurately conveys the sheer speed. As a result, the audience is fiercely involved, as opposed to being relatively alienated from the events.
But the action does not become tiresome as it is always juxtaposed with succeeding shots which focus on the methodical advancement of plot and dialogue. These scenes divulge information, such as the suitcase's owner and pace the film while the action portions make Ronin a roller-coaster ride of a movie.
Ronin is a truly entertaining and polished piece of work. As DeNiro's character, Sam, so astutely puts it, "when there's doubt, there's no doubt."
There is no doubt Frankenheimer has arranged an orchestra of finely-tuned instruments that play together in cinematic harmony. The characters tell us that, in the end, it's all just in another day's work. However, the audience is left to decide whether this is true or whether we have all simply missed the "bigger picture."
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