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Delightful De Niro Delightful De Niro
by Thanos Kalamidas
Issue 7
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Film
Ronin
John Frankenheimer
1998
Robert De Niro is one of these actors you don’t know if you like him or not. I mean his acting style somehow seems the same all the time. It’s like the man has a library of faces and cliché phrases, and uses them when given any chance. Being Robert De Niro doesn’t make him the easiest object for any director, however big a Hollywood name he is.

You can see what I mean in various films, from Taxi Driver to Heat, or the epic Frankenstein and Godfather: Part 2, but I suppose that’s me. While watching Heat, the only thing I could think of was how magnificent Al Pacino was and nothing about Robert De Niro even though that was a great film.

But back to Mr. De Niro, last week I watched Ronin on DVD and I was not sure I really wanted to. I had seen the film in the cinema a few years before and there was somebody else playing as well, Jean Reno. I liked him from another favorite film of mine, Léon, but I didn’t remember much else of Ronin – I’m not sure if it had to do with the script, the director or my memory.

In the beginning we learn that in Japan ‘Ronin’ means the Samurai without master. The scene where the old man describes the word ‘Ronin’ in front of a table with miniature samurai on a battlefield is unique. Jean Reno is the sensitive but hard Frenchman and the other unique element of the film is Robert De Niro himself. It seems to me that for once he left his library of faces and he decided to dress in the skin of the ‘Ronin’ hero.

Perhaps De Niro has been a ‘Ronin’ himself on the big screen. Without a master and always looking for the right role; he obviously found it in this film. Perhaps Francis Coppola, while creating the young Vito Corleone, or De Niro himself feeling insecure destroyed the young Robert De Niro and since then every director has expected to see exactly the same way of acting.

De Niro is brilliant in this film, even for me who has never been sure if I liked him or not. Jean Reno is also brilliant in his supporting role, while the directing really makes Ronin a thriller – the car chase in the middle of Paris and the dark scenes in the café were my favourites.

Well, all good things end somewhere and this is where the good things finish in this film because the script is naïve. The Cold War is over, so we need bad guys. A combination of IRA terrorists and Russian mafia will do. Remember the film is worth watching and having in your DVD collection just because of De Niro’s fantastic acting. The rest of the story….sorry I don’t remember!!!

   
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