Ronin appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Taken from a new 4K transfer, the movie looked great.
Sharpness was a strength, as the film boasted excellent clarity. Nary a sliver of softness marred this tight, concise presentation. No signs of moiré effects or jagged edged appeared either.
With a light, natural layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any intrusive use of noise reduction, and edge haloes remained absent. The transfer also lacked print flaws of any sort.
Ronin opted for a low-key palette that favored subdued blues and ambers. A few brighter hues popped out at times as well, and the colors consistently looked appropriate for the film’s design.
Blacks seemed deep and dense, while low-light shots offered nice clarity and smoothness. I felt very impressed by this terrific transfer.
While not great, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Ronin seemed fine. Speech could be a little reedy, but the lines were intelligible and without edginess or other flaws.
Music showed reasonable range, and effects came across with fair clarity and impact. The latter could’ve been a bit more clean and dynamic, but those elements showed acceptable definition.
The soundfield seemed positive. The music demonstrated good stereo imaging, and the movie took advantage of all its action sequences. All five speakers presented a lot of information, especially during the livelier scenes. Bullets zipped around the room and cars zoomed all over the place.
At times I thought things could be a little too “speaker specific”, but the track usually blended well. In the end, this felt like a “B” soundtrack.
How did this “Limited Edition” Blu-Ray compare with the 2009 Blu-ray? Audio seemed virtually identical, as both discs seemed to sport identical DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtracks.
However, the 2017 BD offered substantial improvements in picture quality. The new transfer looked much tighter and smoother, and it lacked the 2009 disc’s flaws and digital artifacts. This became a major step up in visuals.
The 2009 BD lacked any of an earlier DVD’s extras, but the 2017 LE restores all of these and adds new materials as well. The starts with an audio commentary from director John Frankenheimer.
Recorded for a 1999 DVD, Frankenheimer offers a running, screen-specific look at the script and story, the actors’ training and performances, and the alternate endings. He also tells us a lot about filmmaking techniques, so he details photographic choices as well as locations and sets.
For the best parts, Frankenheimer digs into the stunts and driving sequences. He gives us a very nice examination of those methods and provides a solid discussion of all the related challenges. Despite a little too much dead air, Frankenheimer ultimately makes this a satisfying commentary.
We also get an alternate ending. This one-minute, 49-second clip adds a few shots of Natasha McElhone to the existing conclusion and shows what happens to her. It’s an interesting choice, but I think the more vague finale now in the film works better.
Next we head to a collection of Venice Film Festival Interviews. These fill 20 minutes, 41 seconds, and include comments from actors Robert De Niro, Jean Reno and Natasha McElhone.
De Niro chats about his impressions of Frankenheimer, his character and other aspects of the story, and stunt driving. Reno chats about his character and the others, working with De Niro, Frankenheimer, the movie’s concept and filming in France.
Finally, McElhone looks at her character and related issues, the flick’s theme, working in an action flick and shooting the driving scenes, and her impressions of Frankenheimer.
De Niro has always been a bad interview subject, and he remains uncomfortable here. He tosses out a couple of decent notes but not anything particularly useful. Reno seems more open and adds a few nice observations about the director.
McElhone offers information on about the same level as Reno. She gives us a smattering of details but nothing memorable. That’s the main problem with these interviews; they were done for promotional reasons, so they lack much impact.
During Through the Lens, we get notes from director of photography Robert Fraisse. The 17-minute, 57-second featurette looks at Fraisse’s work.
We learn about the challenges involved during Ronin as well as cooperating with Frankenheimer, shooting the driving, and various other cinematographic issues. Though “Lens” can be a bit dry, it offers a decent perspective on the movie’s camerawork and proves interesting.
The 17-minute, 45-second Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane features Frankenheimer, De Niro, McElhone, Reno, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., stunt coordinator Joe Dunne, stunt car coordinator Jean-Claude Lagniez, and actors Skipp Sudduth, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard and Sean Bean. “Lane” covers Frankenheimer’s work on the set, the movie’s story, characters and actors, the flick’s driving scenes and stunts, filming in Paris, and a few production topics.
Too many movie clips show up here and “Lane” takes a very general focus. It comes across as a promotional featurette that touts the movie but doesn’t tell us much.
Next comes Natasha McElhone: An Actor’s Process. This 13-minute, 57-second piece presents statements from McElhone as she chats about working with Frankenheimer and her co-stars, various challenges during the shoot, forms of training, and aspects of her performance.
Like the other featurettes, this one never really excels. It tosses out a smattering of nice bits but doesn’t coalesce into something with a lot of value.
For the next featurette, we find the 18-minute, 56-second In the Cutting Room. It presents editor Tony Gibbs as he discusses his background and how he got into film as well as his training and prior experiences. Gibbs then goes over how he came to work with Frankenheimer and specifics of what he did on Ronin.
I like the fact we get info about Gibbs’ history before he digs into the specifics. This combination of elements helps make “Cutting” a rich and informative piece.
As we progress, we move to Composing the Ronin Score. This 11-minute, 52-second show features composer Elia Cmiril as he chats about his start in film and his work on Ronin. He discusses specifics of his score and what he wanted to do with the music in this revealing little featurette.
We hear about The Driving of Ronin in a 15-minute, 29-second featurette. It offers notes from stunt car coordinator Lagniez. As one might guess, the program looks at the movie’s stunt driving. Lagniez relates his history with cars and speed and then goes over the details of how he worked on Ronin. Like the two featurettes that immediately precede it, “Driving” becomes useful and worthwhile.
From here, the disc’s remaining extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray. Close-Up runs 31 minutes, 27 seconds and features a 2017 interview with cinematographer Fraisse.
The filmmaker discusses aspects of his career and his work on Ronin. Inevitably, some of this repeats from “Through the Lens”, but Fraisse opens up the subject matter enough to allow “Close-Up” to stand on its own.
From 1994, You Talkin’ to Me? lasts 27 minutes, one second. This acts as an appreciation of De Niro and features filmmaker Quentin Tarantino as he discusses De Niro’s career and impact.
Tarantino offers occasional insights and is willing to confront De Niro’s creative decline but a lot of “Talkin’” feels like basic praise. It also shows its age when Tarantino discusses how unimaginable a De Niro/Al Pacino pairing would be when they worked together in 1995’s Heat.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a still gallery. It presents 37 images that mix publicity elements and photos from the set. This seems like a mediocre collection.
The package concludes with a booklet. It contains credits, photos and an essay from film writer Travis Crawford. The booklet finishes the set well.
Four times I’ve watched Ronin and three times I’ve wanted/expected to like it. Four times I’ve felt only moderately involved by it. The film includes many solid parts but they never coalesce to form a rich whole. The Blu-ray presents excellent visuals, good audio and a nice array of bonus materials. Ronin doesn’t dazzle me as a movie, but I feel very impressed by this top—notch release.
To rate this film, visit the 2006 DVD review of RONIN