Or, Heat goes Continental.

More tough guys who don’t talk much, Men who Do what they Gotta Do.

There’s this case, see, this silver case, and De Niro and gang are After the Case. And because this script is by Mamet instead of Mann, the Tough Guys don’t spend the whole movie blabbing about themselves and slobbering over their girlfriends. De Niro gets in a couple of kisses with Natasha McElhone, but otherwise there’s no mushy stuff.

More aphorisms. Ain’t that the thing? It is what it is. That’s the first thing they teach ya.

What’s in the case? What’s in the case? Big mystery. Because the script is by Mamet, We Never Find Out. Why? Because it Doesn’t Matter. Mamet is relishing the chance to write a pure Maguffin.

Whatever it is, the Russians want it, the IRA wants it, De Niro wants it, the CIA wants it.

Turns out? Ice skates.

I don’t get it, but international intrigue often eludes me. I guess they were really nice ice skates.

A veritable who’s who of espionage players. A Mission Impossible guy, a Hunt for Red October guy, a Munich guy (well, many years later) and no fewer than two Bond villains. Just so you know what De Niro is up against. It’s kind of like European Espionage All-Stars vs. De Niro.

I would have thought that De Niro would have already done an espionage picture before this, but no, just gangsters and psychos. Which adds a nice American touch to the picture. “Hey, all you fancy European spy guys! Get a load of Travis Bickle!

Great car chases. Wow. Impressive use of crowds. Hugely sophisticated action sequences. The chase through Paris is quite amazing.

SPOILER ALERT: The sad thing is, they go to all this trouble to get the skates, and then they shoot the skater. Katerina Witt, no less. Man oh man, Nancy Kerrigan thought she faced a desperate opponent.
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16 Responses to “Ronin”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    Bickle Does Europe

    Sprechen Sie mit mir?

    Me parlez-vous?

    Non vedo chiunque altrimenti qui, in modo da dovete comunicare con me!

    • greyaenigma says:

      Re: Bickle Does Europe

      I’m having too much fun reading that.

      But yeah, I remember the ending bothering me in its pointlessness. But maybe that was the point.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Bickle Does Europe

      I see on my copy of Taxi Driver that if we choose, we could read Bickle’s monologue in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai, but not French. Scorsese hates the French.

      • greyaenigma says:

        Re: Bickle Does Europe

        Maybe because my copy has only English and French. With Spanish subtitles.

        Ever seen Taxi Driver in French? That is something you should see. (That doesn’t paraphrase as well as I’d hoped.)

        • urbaniak says:

          Re: Bickle Does Europe

          Todd Alcott and I were once in Paris together and saw French-language productions of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “American Buffalo.” Truly weird.

          • greyaenigma says:

            Re: Bickle Does Europe

            I immediately want to try and do Mamet-speak in French, but then it occurs to be that Mr. Alcott would be far better at it, but then I realize that he’s actually heard it in French, which renders the whole joke pretty well moot.

            It always used to cause a double-take when I saw Kung Fu movies dubbed into, say Spanish. I imagine movies normally filmed in Mametese translated into a foreign language yield a similar result.

            • Todd says:

              Re: Bickle Does Europe

              Just know that French does not have a word for “fucking,” as in “You stupid fucking cunt.” So that always ties the translators hands.

              Mamet in French is available from the publishing house of Actes-Sud. My favorite Mamet title is Variations Sur Le Canard.

              • greyaenigma says:

                Re: Bickle Does Europe

                He writes stuff in French, too? OK, I can’t help but laugh at these two nearly back-to-back IMDB trivia bits:

                Great attention to realistic dialogue, often the actors in his films stutter or even leave a large portion of their lines unsaid.

                Well known for the rhythmic nature of his dialogue, he actually uses a metronome during rehearsals to perfect the actors’ delivery of it.

                Perhaps they could substitute “American” in the French translations. That would work throughout most of the world.

                True story: my father’s nickname as a kid was “Duck”, once, during a hayride, they approached a low beam and someone yelled “duck!” He immediately looked up, “what?” Whack. (It’s no Higher-Lower, but it kills ’em in Philly. Also, it’s my second paternal anecdote today. Weird.)

  2. craigjclark says:

    Ronin has always been one of those movies, to me, where the dialogue all sounds like Dialogue and the scenes all play like Scenes. It’s purely a genre exercise and therefore it is impossible to get involved with any of the characters or care about their causes. Even John Frankenheimer in his commentary couldn’t convince me that this was a Great Movie. It’s a competently-made movie, to be sure, but it’s lacking a heart.

    Oh, well. The scene where De Niro ambushes Sean Bean with a cup of coffee is great, though.

    • Todd says:

      It’s a competently-made movie, to be sure, but it’s lacking a heart.

      I think it’s a valid criticism to say that it lacks a heart, that it’s more about mechanics and less about character. But I would say that it’s quite a bit more than competently made.

      • craigjclark says:

        I guess. I just look at all of the major players — De Niro, Mamet, Frankenheimer — and can’t help but think they could have made a much, much better picture if they had put in the effort.

  3. popebuck1 says:

    See, they cut the scene where it was spelled out that these are magical skates that will make the wearer unstoppable at the next Winter Olympics. Mamet decided he liked the ambiguity better.

    • greyaenigma says:

      Magical skates imbued with Ving Rhames’ soul.

      • Todd says:

        And you know, you raise a good point. Pulp Fiction has a pure Maguffin too, but we care about all those characters, and we don’t care about the guys in Ronin. Why? Because in Pulp Fiction they not only have lives, they have absurdly commonplace lives. They talk about fast food and foot massages, then they go kill people. In Ronin, they don’t talk about anything. De Niro knows nothing about Jean Reno and vice versa. We find out at the end that it’s okay, De Niro isn’t a heartless bastard after all, but by that point what does it matter?

        I personally would love to see the scene that was cut out of the movie that goes like this:

        DE NIRO: What’s in the case?
        GIRL: You want to know?
        DE NIRO: I’m asking you.
        GIRL: You really want to know?
        DE NIRO: I really want to know.
        GIRL: I don’t think I can tell you.
        DE NIRO: You’ve got to tell me.
        GIRL: You won’t like it.
        DE NIRO: Try me.
        GIRL: Ice skates.
        DE NIRO: What?
        GIRL: I told you you wouldn’t like it.
        DE NIRO: No, what did you say? It sounded like “Ice skates.”
        GIRL: That’s what’s in the case.
        DE NIRO: Ice skates?
        GIRL: You asked.
        DE NIRO: I’m risking my neck for ice skates?
        GIRL: Valuable ice skates.
        DE NIRO: I kicked Sean Bean’s ass over ice skates? That guy playing the driver got his throat cut over ice skates? I sat there and pretended to listen to Michael Lonsdales pointless story about the samurai because of ice skates?!
        (advances on her threateningly)
        GIRL: They’re Magic ice skates!
        (De Niro pulls up short)
        DE NIRO: Magic ice skates?
        GIRL: Yes! Don’t kill me!
        DE NIRO: How — how did they become magic ice skates?
        GIRL: Listen to my outrageous Irish accent, you stupid American! THEY BELONGED TO A LEPRECHAUN!
        (she storms out of the room. De Niro is dumbfounded.)
        (cut to: ext. of hotel. The rain pours down.)

        • greyaenigma says:

          Partly truth, partly fiction

          I actually wasn’t going for a gotcha, I just like making connections. Or maybe I can’t help making connections, and as Stephen King puts it, I need to clean out my filters every once in a while. Well, and I try to be funny sometimes. It’s a sickness.

          Maybe they’ll do a prequel with the leprechaun. The Clover Menace (Now suddenly my head is filled with images from Troll, but that at least was shot in Italy, so… you know, it’s Continental.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good movie

    I always watch this movie when it appears on TV for two reasons.

    1) David Mamet
    2) It never tells us what the MacGuffin is… which makes it more interesting.