PictureRonin comes to Blu-ray with a muted, reserved 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Although a new release, the rendition has been sitting on the shelves for months (well, nearly a year and a half) and it really does not hold up to the standards of the latest Hollywood blockbusters released on the format. Detail is good, but not excellent, only really showing off the potential of the format in a couple of scenes, and generally running sub-par, although still considerably better than the previous 2-disc special edition DVD allowed for. A light sheen of grain can be seen during much of the proceedings, and even some softness occasionally, although there are thankfully no digital artefacts. The colour scheme is fairly muted - as already noted - and this was apparently at the behest of the Director, whose intention it was to provide a cold, impersonal setting - a tall task given the beautiful surroundings of Provence and the French Riviera. There is literally nothing bright or vivid on offer here, all sombre browns and greys and solemn cold tones, and whilst these - along with the skin pallor - seem perfectly well depicted and authentic, Frankenheimer's desperation to bring the 'Cold War' to France is at times a little incongruous with the chosen locale. Blacks are variably solid, which does not help given the dominant night sequences, particularly prevalent in the Paris-set first act. Overall, it is a bit of a let-down, a successor to the previous DVD releases, but nothing to compete with any of the solid or benchmark releases we have now become accustomed to.
SoundThankfully the audio rendition puts in a better performance, the ten-year-old movie getting a punchy DTS-HD track that hits all the right spots. I suspect the quality rendition is largely as a result of superior material which just cannot be held back - the boisterous, bombastic elements of the action thriller really shining through. In the movies scripted by him, Mamet's all-important dialogue is normally quick-fired at an unforgiving rate, whereby you have to be paying the utmost attention. Here it does not always come at such a frantic pace, although you still have to be focussed because many of the characters simply mumble out the cleverly-written dialogue. DeNiro is probably the biggest offender, although arguably this is in-line with the underplaying often required for his nuanced character. Effects are the real strong point, with roaring engines, punishing gunfire, realistic car crashes and neat explosions punctuating this stylish thriller. Even Rambo would have been proud of DeNiro's character, who gets to use about five different weapons - including a fat, belt-fed LMG, a grenade launcher and even a rocket launcher - and almost all of the characters get a turn at driving like maniacs around the streets of France, allowing for all-encompassing, raging shootouts and rip-roaring, frantic chase sequences to provide the aural high points of the track, really bringing home the action. The score, a quietly tinkering, oboe-flavoured affair reminiscent of some of Eric Serra's efforts (the man behind the music for many of Luc Besson's movies, including Leon, and also the Bond film Goldeneye) does become more powerful during the action-packed sequences, competing for attention over the noisy effects. Overall it is a solid, very enjoyable rendition to accompany the movie.
ExtrasShockingly - particularly given how long this title has languished in the depths of hell before release - the disc comes with a complete lack of extras. Even more surprisingly, the last DVD release boasted a whole extra disc of extras, including comprehensive featurettes, a commentary and deleted scenes. There are plenty of crazy stunts and set-pieces to dissect in this movie and it is a great shame that this release does not even give us what has come before - let alone anything new to incorporate the full capabilities of the High Definition format. If I could give a negative score for the extra I would, as it is even more disappointing than the video presentation, giving you no reason to 'upgrade', if that word can even be used in this instance.
VerdictRonin is a good, solid action-thriller that mixes snappy dialogue with a clever espionage plot, coming with an ensemble cast of reliable actors (including a rare relatively recent DeNiro on action-form) and punctuated with tense shootouts and arguably some of the best pre-Bourne car chase sequences. It may not be top of its genre, or of Award-winning calibre, but it is an extremely engaging, enjoyable thriller with some memorable dialogue, action and chase scenes. On Blu-ray viewers will unfortunately be disappointed, the video being a massive let-down and the extra being non-existent (for a film which has previously been released on DVD in a set adorned with a plethora of extras) and only the audio really stands up to High-Def scrutiny. Really, this may have all been forgivable back in 2007, when this movie was originally going to be released, but by now most buyers expect much more. Even fans should be cautious, as this one does not even replace their previous DVD editions, a shame really, when you consider that this solid action-thriller would make a nice home for itself in anybody's collection.
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