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Details At A Glance

Category Action Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - John Frankenheimer (Director)
Running Time 116:25 minutes Other Extras Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette - Filming In The Fast Lane (21 mins)
Alternate Ending
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (91:06)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director John Frankenheimer

Warner Home Video
Starring Robert De Niro
Jean Reno
Natascha McElhone
Stellan Skarsgard
Sean Bean
Jonathan Pryce
RRP $34.95 Music Elia Cmiral

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly 

Plot Synopsis

    Ronin. Modern day guns for hire. In this action thriller, Robert De Niro stars as Sam, an ex-CIA operative who is recruited by an Irish woman (Deirdre, Natascha McElhone) to head a team of Ronin to retrieve a briefcase. Also recruited are Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean and Skip Sudduth.

    The action and suspense are full-on from almost the word go, with a number of very spectacular car chases through the narrow streets of Paris and Nice, and a story that keeps you guessing as to who is actually working for whom.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is superb, and is of reference quality.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely clear and extremely sharp except for one very short sequence towards the end of the movie where the camera zooms in on a car with a yellow light on top. Listening to the director's commentary track, we learn that this particular shot was not zoomed by the camera, but was zoomed optically in post-production, accounting for the loss of resolution at this point. Other than this one specific shot, the detail revealed by this transfer is second-to-none and exceptionally good. Shadow detail is exemplary, with an enormous amount of detail revealed in the murky lighting of this production. This is also specifically commented upon during the director's commentary, where reference is made to the process used to develop the film being specifically designed to bring out shadow details - it certainly shows in the finished product. There is no low level noise.

    The colours were deliberately muted and drab, both as a result of the production design and as a result of the film development process. There were no irregularities with the colour rendition of this transfer - just don't expect any splashes of bright, primary colours, since there aren't any.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. Aliasing is very rare and very mild when it does occur. The subject material and the sharpness inherent in this transfer would lend itself to aliasing being a major problem, but this artefact is extremely well-controlled, and I only noticed it because I was looking out for it. Film artefacts are very rare and not distracting at all.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed between Chapters 25 and 26, at 91:06. It is quite disruptive to the flow of the movie at this point, but is clearly far superior to having to get up and flip the disc over.


    This is a magnificent audio transfer, and is of reference quality.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also an English Audio Commentary track, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound. I listened to both soundtracks.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. There was some hiss apparent during some of the dialogue, presumably because looping was not used very much, but this is far more satisfactory than having to put up with bad ADR sync. During non-English dialogue, the subtitles turned on, but they were not burned into the video stream, which is a good choice on the part of the DVD authors.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by Elia Cmiral was very unusual. The action sequences tended to have a lot of percussive and angular music to accentuate the action, and at other times, the music was quite eerie-sounding. It is an excellent match to the on-screen action. The only minor criticism I would have of the music is that at times during the action sequences, I felt that the level could have been a little higher. The director's commentary points out, however, that this was a deliberate mixing choice that was made during post-production to allow the car sound effects to predominate.

    The surround channels were very aggressively used for ambience, music and for lots of special effects. Directional effects and precise sound placement within the soundfield were the norm rather than the exception, putting you right in the midst of the action at all times, not just during the action sequences.

    The subwoofer was highly active during the action sequences, and placed an excellent bottom end on these sequences.


    A good selection of extras are present. As a small aside, in a first for MGM Region 4 DVDs, the rear cover of this DVD is completely accurate in describing what is on this disc. It's certainly about time they got this right!

What's Missing / What's Extra

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;


    The menu design is themed around the movie. It is 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features an animated clip from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is of excellent quality, being presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.

Featurette - Filming In The Fast Lane

    This is a 21 minute featurette which is basically an extended promotional piece for the movie, with some behind the scenes details. It is presented in a varying aspect ratio, with the video material presented 4:3 windowboxed and the film footage presented at the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This featurette is 16x9 enhanced, and has Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.

Alternate Ending

    As is typical for this type of extra, the image and sound quality is lacking, but this by no means invalidates this as an extremely valuable extra. It is presented at 2.35:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with dialogue only, which is basically mixed into the left channel except for one sentence which is mixed into the right channel. There is no additional director's commentary on this ending, though it is discussed extensively during the main Director's Commentary track.

Director's Commentary - John Frankenheimer (Director)

    This commentary features John Frankenheimer in the centre channel speaking over the film's Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. Whilst not being the best audio commentary I have ever heard, it is nonetheless a very worthwhile addition to this disc, and very informative, particularly about the choices that were made during a number of the scenes and about the technical aspects of the making of the film. There are a few short gaps, but nothing that drags on particularly long.


    This is the typical booklet that comes with MGM DVDs, containing production notes. This one is a little briefer than others that I have seen.


    Ronin, for me, was a good, but not great movie, presented on an exemplary DVD.

    The video quality is superb, and is of reference quality.

    The audio quality is superb, and is of reference quality.

    The extras are very satisfactory, and we have the added bonus of the Filming In The Fast Lane featurette which is not present on the Region 1 version of this disc. It's not that good an extra for me to specifically prefer the Region 4 version of this disc over the Region 1 version of this disc, but it's a nice little bonus to have.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
13th August 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer