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For my money, RONIN ($35) is an outstanding action/thriller, which director John Frankenheimer has filled with some of the most thrilling car chases ever committed to celluloid. RONIN follows a team of mercenaries that have been brought together to ambush a small, but heavily armed security force and hijack a small metal suitcase. While absolute strangers, each member of the team has been selected for a special skill that they will bring to the mission. As with any good thriller, things in RONIN are never what they seem and twisting plot is certain to keep its audience on the edge of their seats.

RONIN stars Robert De Niro as Sam, a former CIA operative selling his loyalties to the highest bidder. As his fans have come to expect, De Niro is nothing short of astonishing in the role. What's even more astonishing is that Jean Reno almost steals De Niro's thunder as a French mercenary named Vincent. Natascha McElhone is not only beautiful; her ballsy portrayal of Dierdre is totally credible and completely captivating. Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean and Michel Lonsdale all turn in superb supporting performances, as does Jonathan Pryce with his all to brief role.

MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made RONIN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the MPEG-2 codec. The 1080p presentation is unremarkable and seems a little dated. Image sharpness and detail are adequate, but fail to impress at the hi-def level. Colors are very subdued and even the flesh tones seem a little pale. Blacks seem fine most of the time, as do the whites. Contrast and shadow detail are okay, but darker sequences don’t distinguish themselves in any significant way. Minimal grain is present and the elements from which the film has been transferred are clean. Some minor artifacts creep into the image in places.

RONIN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sonic portion of the presentation is significantly better than the visual, due to the action sequences and car chases contained in the film. The sound design is fairly aggressive during the action sequences, but more subdued during the talking passages. There is solid use of all the outlying channels for sound effects placement, plus gunfire bounces around the soundstage effectively. Fidelity is pretty strong, with the music and sound effects sounding fine. The bottom end of the track adds percussive force to gunshots and crashes. Dialogue is crisp and usually understandable. A French 5.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 channel and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks are also present. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some trailers.

RONIN is a great action movie. The Blu-ray presentation lacks snap and is just under-whelming.



Ronin [Blu-ray] (1998)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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