This is an absolute tour-de-force henchman performance.
February 6, 2018 11:05 AM   Subscribe

One of the most delightful things about Ronin is that Frankenheimer fills the movie with spycraft by characters who are at all times acting as conspicuously as possible. None, though, have as much panache as this top-notch henchman (listed in the credits as "Dapper Gent" just an unbelievably pure henchman character name) who has gone above and beyond by wearing an overcoat without putting his arms through the sleeves. A Comprehensive Review of the Henchmen and Heavies of Ronin
posted by Existential Dread (48 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Evil Shriner is the one character I've never been able to understand in Ronin.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:13 AM on February 6


Sometimes you have to let art just flow over you, man.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:18 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Ronin is one the many movies I know for a fact I saw but remember almost nothing about, aside from (in this case) one of the big chase scenes which featured a couple of cars speeding the wrong way down a highway or one-way street in the face of traffic moving at a noticeably slow pace, and the bit where one of the bad guys inadvertently reveals that he's ex-Special Forces (or whatever) by saving a coffee cup that Robert DeNiro "accidentally" knocks off a table.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:26 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


This makes me so happy. I love this crappy movie so much. I love watching Sean Bean come apart at the seams. I love the locations and now I realize I love the overwrought bad guys.
posted by SkinnerSan at 11:31 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


It's been ages since I've watched it, but reading about it in the wake of so many "Sean Bean dies" memes, it occurs to me that this is the one movie where his character deserved to die but is miraculously spared.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 11:38 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


Almost turned into a bit of raspberry jam back there, yeah!
posted by incomple at 11:39 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I know it is in many ways an awful film, but I just love Ronin. When I get into that mood of, "I want to watch something, but I don't know what..." it often winds up being Ronin. Again.

I always took Evil Shriner to be the minor crime boss who is really just the money and/or brains behind the operation but decided tonight he wanted to "do a job with the boys" to see what it was like, and, well.
posted by xedrik at 11:39 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: you could have prevented this by using sleeves
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:40 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I also love Ronin. Although my biggest gripe with it is that De Niro has the WORST 'I'm driving' faces and stiff-armed 'steer with entire upper body in way that allows only 1/4 of a turn of wheel movement' terrible posture. His movements in the car in no way conjure up the image of anyone that can actually drive fast, to me.

I mean, I do have somewhat of a high bar for that (obviously) but come on. Tight lipped, mannequin effort-faces and little spasms and twitches at the wheel. Awful.
posted by Brockles at 11:45 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Ronin is in my top five easy. When we lived on a sailboat we had one of those TV/VCR combos and about 10 or 15 movies. Ronin, Clueless, Happy Gilmore, Love and a 45. I've seen them a thousand times and I love them all the same. When we went to Arles, I pretty much shit my pants.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:47 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


My chief memory of Ronin is that its car chases were in contention for the MTV Movie Award for Best Action Sequence, and in the clip at the award show they did a montage of the rad chase scenes set to Metallica's "Fuel." I was like 16 and thought that was awesome.

It lost to Armageddon, and that's how I learned that there is no justice in the world.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:49 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


> I also love Ronin. Although my biggest gripe with it is that De Niro has the WORST 'I'm driving' faces and stiff-armed 'steer with entire upper body in way that allows only 1/4 of a turn of wheel movement' terrible posture. His movements in the car in no way conjure up the image of anyone that can actually drive fast, to me.

As I understand it, they did the car stunts in Ronin by using RHD cars from the UK, sitting the stars in the left seat with a fake wheel, a stunt driver in the (real) driver's seat with a cut-down "square" wheel, and told the stars to imitate what the guy next to him was doing as best as possible.

To that end, I suspect that DeNiro was simply having the shit scared out of him during the chases while copying, out of the corner of his eye, a stunt driver who was minimizing his movements to reduce the external obviousness of what was going on.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 11:58 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Brockles, what's your assessment of Larry? (Poor Larry.)
posted by whuppy at 12:06 PM on February 6


[T]he most ludicrous ice rink related climax to a '90s action movie that does not involve Jean-Claude Van Damme impersonating a hockey goalie to prevent the Chicago Blackhawks from inadvertently blowing up Pittsburgh.

Hey, you take that back!@
posted by k5.user at 12:16 PM on February 6


I thought Larry did his own driving. He is way more believable on screen (because he is likely actually driving in those scenes in the car, because you can't see the action outside at the same time), other than the effort face before side swiping the Citroen. But then I think that is compulsory in movies.

Everyone did a much better job than De Niro. McElhone (also seconding massive crush) is probably the best or second most believable (after Larry) because she looks far more relaxed and in control. De Niro is Twitchy McTwitcherson. His car would be wildly unstable before he even took any turns with all that frantic wheel snatching.
posted by Brockles at 12:19 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It may be unsurprising to reveal that I find unrealistic vehicle handling and especially and particularly stupid looking driving styles an issue in films. Ruins the moment for me if they are doing something at odds with what is actually happening - like the legendary BA Barracus swinging the wheel half a turn either way on a straight and level piece of highway, for instance*.

*yes, the A-team is hardly a standard of 'otherwise believable'.
posted by Brockles at 12:21 PM on February 6


Re: The driving stunts... On the DVD, there's a commentary with Frankenheimer discussing the movie as it plays, and he goes into a fair bit of detail on how the driving stunts were done. Nice Guy Mike pretty much has it, they were modified RHD cars with dummy LHD wheels for the actors to use. It probably looks weird and jerky because De Niro isn't getting the usual resistance or feedback from the wheel that one would expect while driving. Like one of those early arcade machines with a steering wheel and no force feedback, the wheel spins too easily and so there's a tendency to exaggerate the motions, especially for quick or panicked turns.


I would seriously watch Jean Reno in anything. *swoon*
posted by xedrik at 12:23 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I always get Ronin and Heat confused.

I also thought the "wear an overcoat like a cape" thing was a stereotype parody of Europeans until I moved to Europe and have seen this in several countries. I think I still do a double take every time.
posted by sio42 at 12:25 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Just rename it DeNiro's car chase movie, because that's all anyone remembers.

And it was a glorious car chase.
posted by Beholder at 12:30 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It probably looks weird and jerky because De Niro isn't getting the usual resistance or feedback from the wheel that one would expect while driving

Then he's bad at acting (or at least at acting driving, being as it IS De Niro). They all had the same set up. Contract McElhone and DeNiro. He is all tense and restricted in his movements, she is more flowing and isn't supporting herself on the wheel. He looks like he doesn't know what the car is for, in those scenes, to me, and the way he moves doesn't allow even enough wheel movement left to right to match what the car is doing. He just sits there all mouth clamped and wiggles the wheel a bit this way and then that. He's not matching the stuntman's movements not those of someone who (according to character) should have had training in high speed driving/evasion etc.

Can you tell this irks me? Is my ire showing?
posted by Brockles at 12:30 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


You do seem a tad irked.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 12:35 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


"Gregor: So what could have been conducted in collegial atmosphere is now fucked into cocked hat."
posted by storybored at 12:38 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Ronin is one of the last great analogue action films and - steering wheel issues aside - one of the last decent De Niro performances. I will watch it any time it is on. Frankenheimer also knows what some others have forgotten when it comes to action movies - put the camera where the action is. The editing (hat tip: Tony Gibbs) on a lot of the chases is: interior close up of the driver - point of view from the car's left headlamp - point of view from the chasing car's right headlamp - and repeat. There's a lot of movement but you always know what's going on. It's wonderful, and I'm off to see if it's on Netflix.
posted by YoungStencil at 12:49 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Anyone who thinks the overcoat over the shoulders look is in someway unrealistic or an exaggeration has never met any Southern European men of a certain age.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:56 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I mean, stereotypes aren't pervasive and pernicious due to their being completely false.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:03 PM on February 6


Adding myself to the list of people who (1) don't think it's a good movie and (2) enjoy it anyway. Haven't seen it for years but I haven't forgotten how much I dislike De Niro's "map is not the territory" dialog.

Tough to pick a favorite scene/moment. Maybe when Gregor and Mikhi face off, cutting back and forth between the ice skating. Or the first warehouse scene when Deirdre dismisses the team. "You must be tired."

Pretty sure I have the DVD, but where?
posted by kingless at 1:04 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Nice Guy Mike pretty much has it, they were modified RHD cars with dummy LHD wheels for the actors to use.

That, or rigs where an absurdly powerful car (I wanna say a V12 Merc but haven't watched the commentary track in years) attached to basically the front end of another car.

The important thing is that they faced the question "How will we make it look like they're driving around Paris and Nice at 100+ mph?" and they didn't say "Eh, the usual blue screen is enough" or "We should do some fancy projection stuff and a big programmable light rig so it really looks like they're driving around Paris and Nice at 100+ mph."

Instead, they said "Well, what if we drove around Paris and Nice at 100+mph? Huh?"

It probably looks weird and jerky because De Niro isn't getting the usual resistance or feedback from the wheel that one would expect while driving.

My own expectation is that De Niro looks weird and jerky because he's being driven around crowded urban streets at very high speeds without the helmet the stunt driver is assuredly wearing and probably without even a 5-point harness. The others, I think, do a better job because they haven't studied enough to learn that man is mortal.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:11 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


I remember reading or seeing an interview with Jonathan Pryce where he said that he didn't need to act terrified in those chase scenes because he was terrified for real.
posted by octothorpe at 1:40 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


❤️❤️❤️ Ronin, that CGI tire smoke tho
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 2:07 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I am sorely disappointed that this was the only entry on the blog tagged with "Henchman Review" because I would certainly read more of that series. I've never even seen Ronin and this was delectable reading.
Same with "No Sleeve Overcoat", for that matter.
posted by flaterik at 2:27 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I am sorely disappointed that this was the only entry on the blog tagged with "Henchman Review"

Apparently that blog is normally a Northwestern collegiate sports blog. I would voraciously read a Henchman's Quarterly blog. Surely there must be endless material in the bad movies and tv shows of the world to support such an endeavor.

I suppose Northwestern sports fit in the role of henchmen in the Big 10; expendable foes most of the time, but occasionally dangerous if overlooked
posted by Existential Dread at 2:35 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


the new england journal of miscreants
posted by poffin boffin at 3:16 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


"What's the color of the boathouse at Hereford?" is etched into my mind to the point that I've used it both as a security question password and occasionally ask it to people who I think are boasting.
posted by FJT at 3:33 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


Today in synchronicity:
Minutes after I read the "Henchmen in Ronin" piece, THIS European wearing an overcoat as a cape just went by in my Twitter feed
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 4:00 PM on February 6


Sooo many great hardboiled, quotes, sooo many:

---
Vincent: Under the bridge, by the river, how did you know it was an ambush?

Sam: Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That's the first thing they teach you.

Vincent: Who taught you?

Sam: I don't remember. That's the second thing they teach you.

---

Spence: You ever kill anybody?

Sam: I hurt somebody's feelings once.

----

Larry: How did they finally get to you?

Sam: They gave me a grasshopper.

Larry: What's a grasshopper?

Sam: Lessee, two parts gin, one part brandy, one part Creme de Menthe...


and my favorite


Gregor: So what brought you here?

Sam: A fellow that doesn't work so well.

Gregor: The man in the wheelchair? How did he get there?

Sam: Seems to me that was in your neck of the woods back in the late unpleasantness.
posted by lalochezia at 4:00 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


> "What's the color of the boathouse at Hereford? yt " is etched into my mind to the point that I've used it both as a security question password and occasionally ask it to people who I think are boasting.

Particularly as he pronounces "Hereford" incorrectly...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 5:07 PM on February 6


Yes. Second De Niro annoyance. It is not pronounced Hear-ford, Bobbie.
posted by Brockles at 5:28 PM on February 6


That just makes it better. He's never been there either!
posted by lefty lucky cat at 6:24 PM on February 6


Exactly. It’s pronounced “Her-ferd”. Two syllables that rhyme. As in the Hereford Whitefaces. “‘Ware the stampede!” we used to say.

No, we didn’t.

But we did play them in 4A football. I hated marching there because, predictably, the town is surrounded on all sides by miles of feedlots, and every time I inhaled to oompa my sousaphone, I got a lungful of arome de cowshit.

De Niro wasn’t methodical enough to come to Texas and learn how to say it. If he had, he’d know there aren’t any goddamn boathouses there.
posted by malthusan at 7:05 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It’s pronounced “Her-ferd”.

Wait, you're saying Prof. Higgins pronouced it incorrectly!?!
posted by ogooglebar at 7:13 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


It’s pronounced “Her-ferd”

Er. No it isn't. Wait, you're being ironic and making a "I mean the place in Texas not the actual place they are referring to which is the English town of Hereford near Stirling Lines, the home of the SAS, of which Sean Bean is purporting to be ex-of"? Right?

Because that is not how the English town is pronounced.
posted by Brockles at 7:31 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


That just makes it better. He's never been there either!

Maybe? But I expect lots of people have been to places that they still don't pronounce even closely to how the locals do, even anglophones in English-dominant countries.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:43 PM on February 6


The real answer is that no one really knows what color the boathouse is, as it was blown over in the last hurricane.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:53 PM on February 6


My favorite line was:
“Afraid for your skin?”
“Yes, it covers my body.”
posted by um at 9:02 PM on February 6


My favorite quote is De Niro's indifferent response to Sean Bean's question about what he favors, "weapons-wise":

"Well, you know, it's a toolbox."

I find it works just as well for programming languages as guns.
posted by The Tensor at 10:34 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


Like the best art, Ronin is a little bit better as a memory than it ever is as actually experienced. That said, Mamet has the ‘you wanna catchy line? I got a catchy line for you...’ thing down pat. State and Main Is probably the purest at this (the whole movie sounds like it was cribbed from other movies), but Ronin does deliver. Fat and salt for the brain.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:56 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


TheWhiteSkull, back when Ronin was first released, I recall investigating the Hereford boathouse question. According to that unimpeachable source, some anonymous guy on the Internet who claimed to have trained there, it was brick with blue window trim.
posted by mojohand at 12:06 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I also love Ronin. One half second scene in particular: elite French cops, ass-kicking badasses, wearing all black with ski masks and packing tactical shotguns, leap out of a cute little van in a sleepy French town, ready to kick ass like they do all they time. Only a walls of flame can hold them back.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:42 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


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