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Monday, March 09, 2009

Tribute to Ronin

Here's a movie with just a little bit of everything, and I think, a slightly older cast doing a great job in terms of making the action believable and realistic. Nothing Rambo or Terminator-like here. Just a ragtag bunch of ex-spies getting on with "the job" at hand. Ronin has everything from great performances by industry stalwarts and witty, sharp dialogue, to got-me-on-the-edge-of-my-seat car chases.

I think that the Robert DeNiro - Jean Reno pairing worked well in the movie. From the cautious camaraderie in the beginning, to the ultimate trust and loyalty that they display for each other in the end, the on-screen chemistry is convincing. Oh, that and the witty repartee that occasionally transpires between these two is brilliant. He he he... Here's an example:

Vincent (Jean Reno): Under the bridge, by the river, how did you know it was an ambush?

Sam (Robert De Niro): When ever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That is the first thing they teach you.

Vincent: Who taught you?

Sam: I don't remember. That's the second thing they teach you.

And the car chases...Wow! Some racing of the pulse there, man. I love the zippy chases through some of the narrowest streets and lanes in Europe. It gives the movie it's overall zest, like a final touch to elevate it to the ranks of greatness. My favorite car chase in the movie is the one in the Champerret tunnel in Paris, when all of a sudden they start driving -- like spies possessed -- against traffic. As one reviewer states, "[The tunnel car chase] has got to go down as one of the best car chases put on film."

As with most other movies that I've paid tribute to on this blog, this is also a must-watch. The only people I recommend who stay away from this are those who don't fancy action too much, and those who don't have the patience to pay attention to the dialogue to appreciate it.

I leave you with a last piece of conversation between DeNiro's character, Sam, and Michael Lonsdale's character, Jean-Pierre. The scene is after Sam, has had a bullet removed and is recuperating in Jean-Pierre's petit chateau of a house. Sam walks in to find Jean-Pierre painting a little samurai figurine which is part of a larger model. This bit of dialogue will help you understand the reason behind the title, and a little taste of the ultimately pragmatic Sam. Happy viewing! :-)

Jean-Pierre: The Forty-Seven Ronin. Do you know it?

[Sam shakes his head]

Jean-Pierre: Forty-seven samurai, whose master was betrayed and killed by another lord. They became ronin - masterless samurai - disgraced by another man's treachery. For three years they plotted, pretending to be thieves, mercenaries, even madmen - that I didn't have time to do - and then one night they struck, slipping into the castle of their lord's betrayer and killing him.

Sam: Nice. I like that. My kind of job.

Jean-Pierre: There's something more. All forty-seven of them committed seppuku - ritual suicide - in the courtyard of the castle.

Sam: Well, that I don't like so much.

Jean-Pierre: But you understand it.

Sam: What do you mean, I understand it?

Jean-Pierre: The warrior code. The delight in the battle, you understand that, yes? But also something more. You understand there is something outside yourself that has to be served. And when that need is gone, when belief has died, what are you? A man without a master.

Sam: Right now I'm a man without a paycheck.

Jean-Pierre: The ronin could have hired themselves to new masters. They could have fought for themselves. But they chose honor. They chose myth.

Sam: They chose wrong.
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