Ronin: Gold Edition (1998)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-John Frankenheimer (Director)
Featurette-In The Ronin Cutting Room
Featurette-Natascha McElhone: An Actor's Process
Featurette-Composing The Ronin Score
Featurette-The Driving Of Ronin
Featurette-Filming In The Fast Lane
Featurette-Through The Lens
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||116:20 (Case: 120)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||John Frankenheimer|
Robert De Niro
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Let me start by saying that Ronin is one of my favourite action films of recent years. I have enjoyed watching it quite a few times and I could watch the car chases over and over again. This film is a great example of an action film in that it has fantastic and very realistic action (which is obviously a pre-requisite) but also features excellent acting, an interesting and quite intricate plot and a fantastic European feel.
The film has been released previously in Region 4 and the review can be found here. It was quite an early release in the life of DVD, and quite rightly at the time was considered to be a benchmark-setting release in terms of audio and video quality. I am pleased to report that both have been significantly improved in this new Gold Edition as have the menus and the extras. Everything pretty much. The direct comparison is as follows:
|Price||Was $34.95||RRP $19.95 but available cheaper|
Feature File Size
4 643 680 bytes
6 227 964 bytes
Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1
English, Norwegian and English for Hearing Impaired
Same + four other languages
Alternate Ending, Filming in the Fast Lane featurette, Commentary, Trailer
Same + 6 other quality featurettes and a photo gallery (see below for details)
For those not aware of this film, the plot involves a group of mercenaries brought together to steal a case from some people for another group of people. It is never explained who the groups are or what is in the case but it does not really matter. This film is all about the chase rather than the prize and also the twists and double crosses along the way. The mercenaries are dubbed Ronin, which is a Japanese word for masterless samurai, who in ancient Japan had to either survive as mercenaries or kill themselves. The mercenaries gathered include Sam (Robert De Niro), Vincent (Jean Reno), Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard), Spence (Sean Bean) and Larry (Skipp Sudduth). Their contact and co-ordinator is Deirdre (Natascha McElhone) who is working for the mysterious group who want the case. The story follows their actions to set up for and steal the case and how the plan unfolds after that. All of this is done with some great action scenes and what are probably the best car chases ever put in a film.
The film was the last great feature of director John Frankenheimer before his death in 2002 and features a screenplay co-written by David Mamet under a pseudonym.
If you have not seen this film and like action films, just buy it now. If you have the previous version and love it, an upgrade is definitely worth considering, especially at the price.
The video quality is excellent, significantly better than the original version.
The feature is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is very close to the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
The picture was very clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was excellent. Comparisons to the original version reveal some background MPEG grain in the older version which is not present here. Obviously the increased feature file size has resulted in an improved video bitrate. It is also sharper than the original version.
The colour was excellent, perfectly representing the colour scheme of the film which is quite muted.
The only artefact I saw was some very minor aliasing such as on the arena and houses at 59:00. It seems pedantic to even mention it.
There are subtitles in English, English for the hearing impaired and five other European languages. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read.
The layer change occurs at 52:13 and was not particularly noticeable.
The audio quality is stunning. The original Dolby Digital track was and still is excellent but the new DTS track is a heart stopper. It is just fantastic, aggressive and completely full on, especially during the car chases.
This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a DTS 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 768 Kb/s.
Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.
The score of this film by Elia Cmiral is wonderful combining excitement, atmospherics and middle eastern touches to make a great accompaniment to the action. It was his first major studio picture and he stepped in when another composer pulled out of the project.
The surround speakers were incredible from start to finish. If you have never driven at 75 mph in a Paris road tunnel you will certainly be able to tell people what it sounds like. The effects are non-stop from gunfire, to explosions, to car crashes to sirens and horns. Magnificent!
The subwoofer was also extremely well used both for the score and for specific effects such as explosions. Great stuff!
|Surround Channel Use|
There are copious extras spread over the two discs. I will focus on the new extras, which are marked as such below. The original review does an excellent job of describing the ones from the first edition.
The menu has been updated for this edition featuring more motion and some sound effects and music on all menu pages.
The same commentary as the original version.
A new interview with the editor on this film, Tony Gibbs, who has since retired. He is very interesting and engaging talking about his career, how he got into editing, working on this film and with the director generally, how he cut the chases and the use of close-ups. He also discusses the art of editing more generally. Very Good. Presented 4x3.
A 2004 interview with the actress where she discusses her experiences on the project including casting, working with De Niro, Reno and Frankenheimer, the stunts and training process. She also shares some anecdotes. Not bad but not overly exciting. 16x9 enhanced.
A contemporary interview with the composer Elia Cmiral where he discusses his process for writing scores, how he got the job and his background. He is quite interesting however his accent is a little difficult at times.16x9 enhanced.
A fascinating interview with the stunt car co-ordinator from Ronin, Jean-Claude Lagniez who like most of the drivers on the film was a professional race car driver. He discusses how the speed was not cheated and that all stunts were really done. He tells stories of his life and some anecdotes about working with the actors who participated in the stunts. This is in French with burned in subtitles and presented 4x3.
The original making-of featurette included on the previous edition. Still worth watching.
Another interesting interview recorded recently with one of the original crew, this time the DP Robert Fraisse. He discusses that unlike most films the focus of his work here was on the cameras rather than the lighting, the tricks he used, the wide angle shots which are used in the film to great effect, technology and working with Frankenheimer. Excellent.
A set of three interviews which I presume were recorded at the Venice film festival during promotions for the film on its original release. The interview subjects are Robert De Niro, Jean Reno & Natascha McElhone. They discuss their characters, working with the director, the stunts and the concept of the film. Not essential but worth watching.
Included on the previous version.
One of the better style of photo gallery where you don't have to press a button to get each new picture. It is set to music, runs over 3 minutes and includes stills from the film and behind the scenes shots. Worthwhile.
A great trailer which was included on the previous version.
This local release is now tied with the Region 2 UK SE as the best version available globally. There has not been an updated version of this disc released so far in Region 1. For once, we are ahead of the game. The original Region 1 release is very similar to ours and is compared in the first version review linked above.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is excellent.
The set has a large collection of extras, mostly of good quality.
|DVD||Pioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output|
|Display||Sony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Bose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)|