The Curator of Schlock #377 by Jeff Shuster

Ronin

More like this, please!

I had lost all hope of escaping Mooseville, a small town in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan when a gentleman resembling Don Knotts broke into my prison cell decrying, “This isn’t the way out.”

“Hey, can you get me out of here and help me rescue my pet kangaroo and get my truck back?” I asked. He dug into his ear and blew the wax off his pinky.

“Okay, but I’ll need a favor in return. Follow me,” he said before crawling back into the hole in the wall. “By the way, the name’s Larry.”

“I’m Thomas, but my friends call me Big Tom,” I said knowing those words were a lie. — To be continued.

This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1998’s Ronin from director John Frankenheimer. As I’ve said before, Arrow is known as “the Criterion of Shit,” but they don’t just put out what the mainstream would consider schlock. Here we have a classic John Frankenheimer film with a stellar cast and impressive stunt work. The screenplay was co-written by David Mamet. Come on.

If we go back to the 1990s, there was a resurgence in the espionage genre starting with the return of James Bond in Goldeneye. So we got a bevy of these types of movies, but the best of them was Ronin. The movie begins with a bunch of shady individuals meeting at a Paris bar. First among them is Sam Regazolli (Robert De Niro). We don’t know much about him, but from the constant prodding of the characters, we get the idea that he’s an ex-CIA agent turned mercenary.

An Irish woman named Deirdre (Natascha McElhone) has the group moved to a warehouse where she can discuss the plan her organization wants them to undertake. We don’t know the name of her organization, but I think the IRA would be a good guess. The plan is to steal a suitcase. What’s in the suitcase is anyone’s guess because Deirdre won’t tell them. I suppose it’s a weapon of some kind, but all we know is that the Russians want it and are willing to pay top dollar for it. The group has to intercept it before the exchange takes place.

It’s dawning on me that writing about a perfect movie is difficult and Ronin is as close to perfect as movies come. This is like a Mission Impossible movie, but in reverse, with a team made up of criminals, some of whom are downright villainous. They’re not all bad though. Jean Reno plays Vincent, a French marksman that befriends Sam. And Sam will need friends when the group is double crossed. Expect some excellent car chase scenes, explosions, gunplay, the works. Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Price round out the cast.

I don’t want to give any more 23-year-old spoilers as you should go into this movie with fresh eyes. The Arrow Blu-ray has some excellent special features such as an audio commentary with director John Frankenheimer and an episode of Cinefile detailing the career of Robert De Niro with interviews with Quentin Tarantino. Arrow also remastered this movie in 4K so this is the best the movie has ever looked on home video. Check it out!


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.