A Passion For Movies, A Passion For Racing
Written by J.D. Zeik and David Mamet, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring such screen greats as Robert De Niro and Jean Reno, the 1998 espionage thriller Ronan comes in at number #4 of the all time greatest movie car chases.
The word Ronin is Japanese in origin, used for a Samurai who has no master. The tie-in is of course that the story revolves around some unemployed secret agents, discarded at the end of the Cold War.
There are several car chase sequences throughout the movie, the final chase occuring on the streets and tunnels of Paris. It was to be expected that the film would feature a car chase or two, given Frankenheimer’s passion for racing (he being a former race driver).
And best of all, rather than opt for computer aided special effects, Frankenheimer instead chose to film the chase sequences live to ensure their authenticity.
Cold War Agents Left Out In The Cold
The film starts in Paris, where the group of unemployed agents, now working as mercenaries, is brought together by the mysterious Deirdre (Natascha McElhone). The group consists of self-professed ‘weapons man’ Spence (Sean Bean), driver Larry (Skipp Sudduth), computer expert Gregor (Stellan Skarsgård), Vincent (Jean Reno) who can procure anything in Paris, and Sam (Robert De Niro), who appears to be the most experienced of the group, observing not only everything around him, but the people as well.
Their objective is to retrieve a metal case from a group of men whom Deirdre refers to as "very unpleasant." Deirdre's contact, Seamus (Jonathan Pryce), passes her more information and tells her that they have to move right away, as a group of Russians are making a bid for the case.
Obviously the group needs time to get to know one-another, but time is not on their side. Whilst procuring weapons, Spence is shown to be rather incompetent, and Sam quickly decides he should not be part of the group. With things heating up, Sam knows the contents of the brief case must be extremely important, and valuable.
More Twists And Turns Than The Car Chase
Mayhem follows, cases being switched, the group being double-crossed and the Russians getting involved. Eventually it is Sam and Vincent left following the trail of the brief case and those that double crossed them, including Deirdre. And the trail leads back to Paris, where the infamous chase begins.
The chase eventually ends when Vincent shoots out one of Deirdre’s tires, sending her car over an unfinished stretch of highway. The story does not end there however, with Deirdre, Seamus and Gregor managing to escape from the car before it explodes.
In the film's coda, it's implied by radio broadcasts that as a result of the previous night's actions, Sinn Féin and the British have come to a peace agreement in regard to Ireland (which reflected what occurred the year the film was released).
Sam and Vincent part ways as friends (though Sam, referring to his training, refuses to divulge what was in the case); Sam drives off with his CIA contact and Vincent walks off, pondering the future.
In the originally filmed ending (cut from the theatrical release, but included on the DVD), the viewer also sees Deirdre attempting to return to the café where Sam and Vincent were, when she is abducted by her former IRA associates to an uncertain (and ominous) fate.
If your one to watch the credits, you will note that writer Mamet’s name does not appear, instead there is the name "Richard Weisz". This is reportedly due to disappointment at having to share credit with Zeik (the originating writer). According to some production sources (notably Zeik's lawyer), Mamet's contributions were "minor", limited to adding the character Deirdre and most of De Niro's scenes.
According to Frankenheimer , "The credits should read: Story by J.D. Zeik, screenplay by David Mamet. We didn't shoot a line of Zeik's script."