Journal: Ronin Will Thrill You like No Car Film Can

Ronin Will Thrill You like No Car Film Can

By Benjamin Shahrabani
May 27, 2015
21 comments

The ronin of the Japanese legend were samurai without a master. Leaderless, they would roam the countryside, shamed, and look for work as hired swords or bandits.

In the 1998 crime-thriller directed by John Frankenheimer, the modernized Ronin are mercenaries for hire, former “Cold Warriors” whose jobs have been phased out due to the thaw in international relations.

They’re simply surplus now, but there are always jobs available for people with unique skill-sets. Robert De Niro plays Sam, the lone American, who heads up an international crew for hire after being hired by IRA member Deirdre (Natascha McElhone) to recover a mysterious briefcase. There’s also Vincent (Jean Reno), a Frenchman who knows how to procure things, and the one member that De Niro’s character respects, and vice-versa. Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard), a computer expert (who might be ex-KGB). Spence (Sean Bean), a munitions and bomb maker. And finally, Larry (Skipp Sudduth), the driver. Every crew worth its salt needs an expert driver, right?

Relax, sit back, and just enjoy the film for what it is: a virtual feast of cars and chases. For maximum authenticity, Frankenheimer decided to shoot the chases himself in real-time with none of the CGI or post-production trickery that is prevalent today, even riding on board during some scenes. 400-euro-job salutes him for his bravery.

12:30—Deirdre: “Larry, Can you Tell Vincent what it is you need”? Larry: “Something very fast. Audi S8. Something that can shove a little bit. I’m also gonna need a nitrous system.”

Sounds like Larry was “fast and furious” when The Fast & the Furious was but a speck in the screenwriter’s imagination. Nitrous Oxide (NOS) is the perfect addition to the S8’s 4.2 liter V-8, boosting its now pitiful 335 horsepower to something a whole lot greater, and transforming the Audi into the perfect vehicle to chase down a valuable briefcase.

23:30—After loading up with some supplies for the job, the crew is ambushed by folks with bad intentions in a 7 Series. De Niro and his crew take them down, but in the distance, we hear sirens. The Gendarmes must be on their way, but their pitiful Peugeots are no match for the raw power of a NOS-boosted S8. Larry powerslides the S8 around Paris with ease, but Sean Bean gets a bit car-sick…

42:53—This is why we’re watching. A convoy of black French cars—Peugeot 605’s and one Citroen XM in the middle—mean these are the bad guys who have the mysterious case our heroes want to abscond with.

43:00—De Niro and Jean Reno wait for word in the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, a very rare Mercedes-Benz W116 variant.

45:30—De Niro fires out the sunroof of the Benz. We’re pretty sure that’s not what a sunroof is for, but the shot is effective. The chase is on!

46:50—If the 6.9 vs the Peugeots was the undercard, this is the title fight. The boosted, and mighty “D2″ S8 vs the Citroen XM, with the Mercedes in pursuit, right through the center of town. They are breaking so many traffic laws.

50:00—How many henchmen can fit in a Peugeot 605? The answer: quite a few.

108:50—De Niro and Reno commandeer a VW Golf. Keep calm and drive on.

1:25:00—I guess there could be worse way to die. A condemned man gets what seems to be his last ride in an E34 BMW M5.

1:27:00—After some more plot turns and twists, De Niro’s Sam and Reno’s Vincent end up tracking down Deirdre, Gregor, and Seamus (Jonathan Price) , and chasing them through the streets and highways of the French capital. While McElhone has the mighty M5, De Niro gets the worst end of the stick—pardon the pun—in a Peugeot 406. De Niro’s character must be an amazing driver, because the Peugeot 406, even in top spec, doesn’t seem competitive with the M5. Still, nice heel and toe work from De Niro, as the camera cuts to his feet working the pedals every now and then.

1:33:40—The epic chase comes to an end after the M5 gets its tire shot out. That is not going to buff out. The eight-minute chase through the middle of Paris has come to an ignoble end.

1:38—No more car chases, but is that a lovely Ferrari 250 Cabriolet Series II by Pinin Farina that we see being tuned up at a garage?

When this film was first released, Frankenheimer had already cemented his place in car movie heaven on the account of his earlier work on Grand Prix (1966) and The French Connection (1975). And he didn’t disappoint here either. While Ronin was only a moderate financial success when it came out, (and its plot can be a little bit confusing at times), the break-neck pace, and quality of film’s car chases are most of the reasons people remember it today as such a great 90s thriller.

Oh, and what was in that briefcase?

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Peter J SmithMatt LmrndeuropooferCitizen Patrickmtdrift Recent comment authors
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Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith

Some of my favorite chase scenes!

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[…] (The above three images via 400-euro-job.) […]

Matt Lmrnd

Student working in food delivery buisness on a moped at the time, I came across the shooting of several Paris chase scenes, that was stunning. I remember the many tire trails on the spot where the Peugeot makes a U-turn to get into the subterranean road hub under Les Halles (near the Louvre), where De Niro makes jus notorious scared face. It’s now closed, maybe because it was fun as hell to rush into it as fast as you can, no matter how blind all the turn were. I Saw (and did…) plenty of drifts down there. Fyi : the… Read more »

europoofer
europoofer

One of my favorite films.

For the Paris chase scene, they used RHD cars with fake LHD Dash and steering wheels, so the actors were filmed in the left seat and the stunt drivers drove in the right seat.

Citizen Patrick
Citizen Patrick

A few comments:

1. “Sam” was not the lone American on the crew. As far as we can tell from his accent, “Larry” was also from the US of A.

2. William Friedkin directed “The French Connection” (1971), not Frankenheimer.

3. Frankenheimer was indeed a car enthusiast of the highest order. He maintained a collection of handbuilt 1:43-scale models of every Ferrari and Porsche to have ever competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Dan Sciannameo
Dan Sciannameo

[url=”https://youtu.be/fliILaCkQts”]The Last Run 1971[/url]

Dan Sciannameo
Dan Sciannameo

[url=”https://youtu.be/fliILaCkQts”]Your text to link…[/url]

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

If I may . One more post on this before its relegated to the Previous Posts bin .

I find it interesting that my two all time favorite GearHead films ( noticing I said films not documentaries ) are ” Grand Prix ” and ” Ronin ” Both Frankenheimer films to the max . Which kind of makes me wonder . Was Frankenheimer a bit of s closet gearhead himself ?

PS; Note to staff . For what ever reason this page induces the dreaded Apple Spinning Beach Ball of Death syndrome .

Trackdust
Trackdust

Is it a M5, look more like a regular 5 series to me.

And you forgot to mention an Alfa 75, the best looking actor in a supporting role. 😉

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

The BMW in the close up shot I’m pretty sure is an early E34 M5 (or a 5 series make to look like one) with the odd turbine alloy wheels which were unique to those cars. In some of the shots it does look to be a different 5 series (note the shot of the tyre being shot out shows a BBS cross spoke alloy on the wheel different from the turbine wheel). As it does not seem particularly significant to the story that the car was an M5 it would not surprise me if the props department went out… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Actually if I may . According to those in the know , all of the 5 Series ( there was most definitely more than one ) used were E34’s with a couple having add on BMW style turbine wheels etc : but none were actually M5’s . Nice catch on the Ferrari by the way and thanks for getting there early : saving me the effort of having to correct MB myself .

mtdrift
mtdrift

Your .gif mojo is black belt level, but you forgot the sinister bay window Bus from the opening scenes. Can any Type 2 be called sinister? If it can, it’s this one.

Michael Banovsky
Michael Banovsky

It’s funny you say that—I made a .gif with it, but cut it to reduce the page load time. But since you’ve asked:

mtdrift
mtdrift

Yes!

JB21
JB21

…and this is the movie that started a ball rolling for BMW’s “the Hire” series. Awesome in all account!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

The script itself at times is a bit stilted and vague . But the acting is superb and overall its still one of my favorite films as well as by far my absolute favorite non – automotive specific yet still very car oriented film of all time .

The best part in my opinion being that all the chase scenes are genuine . Real stunt drivers and cars with nary a hint of CGI to be found anywhere in the entire film

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

I love the fact that Frankenheimer used RHD cars for the stunt work so that the actors could be in the car behind dummy steering wheels during the filming as the Stunt driver steered from the other side. At one point in the Paris chase you can see De Niro’s famous method acting goes right out of the window as he is clearly terrified.

The Ferrari is a 250 PF Cabriolet series II not a California btw 😀

Michael Banovsky
Michael Banovsky

I *should* run all Ferraris by you, first, y’know. 🙂

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