Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bondian, Yet Not Bond Pt. 2

For today’s selection of Bondian scenes in non-Bond movies, we turn once again to the Eurotravel Thriller, a spy film sub-genre that takes place in various scenic locales in post-Cold War Europe and features lots of machine guns and Mercedes. The Eurotravel Thriller is typified by the Bourne movies and by The Peacemaker and Ronin.

The Peacemaker

Okay, so this 1997 nuke-on-the-loose movie starring George Clooney, who bobs his head like a sparrow, and Nicole Kidman, who has an unflattering dye job, does not take place entirely in Europe, but it mostly does so I can categorize it as a Eurotravel Thriller. If Rick Steves has visited most of the locations in your film, you have a Eurotravel Thriller.

There are two scenes of Clooney Kun Do in The Peacemaker: one is a bitchin’ fight on a bridge where Clooney’s character fast ropes from a helicopter into a truck to kick some ass, and the other is a car chase that turns into a demolition derby.

Clooney plays a brash military intelligence officer who thinks that money is everyone’s key motivation. He and Kidman are searching for two missing nuclear warheads with the help of Armin Mueller-Stahl. When the Mercedes the three of them are riding in is stopped by a bunch of goons in cars, Clooney thinks it’s just a shakedown and they want money. But when Armin steps out to talk with them, the goons gun him down.

Clooney hops in the driver’s seat and races away, but stops. His friend’s senseless death has pissed him off. He waits in a big town square for the other cars. They appear, and it’s go-time.

The next few minutes are a symphony of destruction as Clooney rams his Mercedes into the bad guy cars. I think this scene is brilliant, because you’re totally expecting a big car chase, and the scene turns into something else. Something Bondian.

At the very end, Clooney pulls his gun and walks over to a disabled bad guy car which is crumpled and hissing under a shower of water from a nearby fire hydrant. The goons inside seem hurt bad. Clooney walks up and without saying a word, shoots the goons who killed his friend. Then he turns around and walks away while Nicole Kidman freaks out.
F*$% Yeah.


This 1998 John Frankenheimer carpocalypse features a kick-ass cast, beautiful French locations, a taut David Mamet script, and two – yes TWO – of the best car chases ever filmed.

I am so totally serious. If you can’t get behind Ronin then you should just go join the Taliban right now, you bastard.

Here’s a YouTube video that covers the Paris chase. It’s a lengthy sequence that is noteworthy for the sheer scale of collateral damage and the relatively understated way the whole thing is handled. I love how there’s no exciting music on the soundtrack until about halfway through, when they start racing the wrong way through traffic and shit gets really dicey. There’s a nice subtle shot at the 4:18 mark of icy calm Stellan Skarsgard in the passenger seat of the fleeing car where he finally decides to put on his seatbelt.
Anyway, Ronin. If you haven't seen it, you must.


Anonymous said...

BLAH BLAH BLAH. Didn't this site used to be about comics?

Shawn Levasseur said...

Ronin, F*** Yeah!

That is the mother of all car chases.

Bullett is nice, but where the heck are the pedestrians and other moving vehicles. It's like the city of San Francisco suddenly was abandoned by all of society. Hell, even the most amateurish of chase scenes will at least put a token fruit cart in the way at some point.

The Foos said...

Ronin is full of F*** yeah! scenes, like when Skarsgard catches the full coffee cup before it hits the ground. "Old habits, they die hard."

McGone said...

Ronin is the poo. Loved that chase.

I also dug Peacemaker for the scenes you mentioned. And the nuke-pilfering intro was definitely "Bond-esque..." if not "Bondian." (Is there a difference?)

Hypersmash Studios said...

Skarsgard: "What color is the boathouse in Hereford?"
Deniro: "How the fuck should I know?"

Great fucking scene. They should put that scene in ever movie.

Kitty said...

You know what I'd watch? A Eurothriller starring Rick Steves. "I'm Rick Steves, and I'm your guide to KICKING ASS!"

Anonymous said...

"I'm here to kick ass and eat brie -And I'm all outta brie"

Edward Liu said...

You liked Ronin? By the time it was done going through the Hollywood meat grinder, it was NOTHING like the Frank Miller comic book.

(So there, "anonymous," there's your comics content. Nyah.)

"If there's ever any doubt, then there is no doubt. That's the first thing they teach you."

"Who taught you that?"

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

Dammit, Mamet or someone like Mamet needs to write a sequel to Ronin just to get DeNiro and Jean Reno together on the screen again. Maybe they can guest star on "The Unit."

Anonymous said...

One quiet vote for "Rogue Male," with Peter O'Toole.

Anonymous said...

That Peacemaker scene is probably one of my 10 favorite scenes of badassedness ever. Especially because I don't think of that character as being a cold-blooded killer like Bond and Bourne. They killed his friend and you can see how utterly f***in' pissed off he is as he wastes those bastards.

A lot of movies would've given the moment some kind of a weighty pause before he pulls the trigger, complete with close ups so the goon can see it comin' and suffer a bit longer. Way more badass this way. Done...and done! Awesome.

About the only thing I don't like about the film is Nicole Kidman as a brunette--what's that?!?!

If you love the car chases in Paris there is an amatuer film from the 60's called "Rendevous!" where some crazy dude straps a film camera onto his Ferrari and bombs through Paris at high speed.
It's the real deal, and it goes on for like 10 minutes or more until he pulls up to a hot little honey and trips off for some afternoon amore, hence the title.

Anonymous says: Check it out.

Anonymous said...

It's also fucked up when late in the movie Skarsgaard's character encounters someone whose icy calm trumps his. Ronin kicks so much ass it kicks everyone's ass twice. Just a great thriller. Crap, why don't I own the DVD of this? What's wrong with me? Thanks for the reminder, Dave.

The Peacemaker really showed Clooney's potential as a movie star. I liked the way he played that character, a cold war warhorse just waking up to the fact that the game isn't played his way anymore.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - don't hate. When the digressions are as entertaining and on the money as this, who are we to deny it?

I'm glad to see these two flicks getting some love. Peacemaker drags in parts, but the scenes Dave mentions really work. I also enjoy the counter-intuitive solution to the nuke problem toward the end -- blow it up early to keep it from going nuclear. It reminds me of The Spy Who Loved Me, when Bond tells Shane Rimmer he needs a nuke to blow open a door. It's followed by a decent bit of suspense as he disarms it. Recent Bond films could have used a little more suspense, but it's hard to generate much when you've established an invulnerable hero. Another reason to love Casino Royale.

And Ronin? Why did this not get more attention when it came out? I couldn't understand why everybody wasn't talking about it. Awesome cast, great performances, sharp dialogue, the Maguffin of all Maguffins, and incredible action. One of my favorite aspects is that this is a spy movie where everybody is thinking. You see them calculating, scheming, evaluating, constantly working to get the upper hand. Coincidentally, the same quality I enjoyed in Daniel Craig's James Bond. Bond is more arrogant than Sam, but he can back it up better than Sean Bean. Plus, how many other movies boast three former Bond villains (Bean, Michael Lonsdale, and Jonathan Pryce) in the cast?

My only nitpick? Ronin's finale in the ice arena never quite lives up to the charge of that last car chase. I kind of wished they had found a way to resolve things within a car chase.

Anyway, thanks Dave!

Anonymous said...

How can you plug Ronin without mentioning the unutterably awesome Jean Reno? If they ever decide to give Bond a French partner, Reno would be the perfect choice.

Nobody mention the Pink Panther remake, please, I'm in denial.

But yes, Ronin is awesome and the Peacemaker is far better than people give it credit for.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Ronin. Best car chase ever!

Anonymous said...

The real ending when Miss. Lassie gets an Irish limousine pick up is the stuff that makes me sleep well at night.

The decision to scrap it in the interest of chasing skirt movie-goer $ pretty much sucked heavy nuts.

RIP John Frankenheimer

Mikey said...

"I'm here to kick ass and eat brie - And I'm all outta brie"

Laugh - the freak - out - loud!

The Tensor said...

Let me be the fifteenth person to say, "Ronin, sweet, sweet Ronin". I drink grasshoppers because of that movie! Tight all the way through and infinitely quotable. I'm particularly fond of "Oh, I'm sure too", "I'm leakin'", and "It's a toolbox".

The Peacemaker needed a better ending. Here's mine:

The nuke is hidden in a church in Manhattan. Our Heroes and their team get there only a few minutes before it explodes. Clooney convinces Kidman he's going to defuse it, claiming he's done it before, but convinces her and the team to wait outside. He pries open a panel, exposing the guts of the bomb, including the explosive lenses. Just when we expect him to start fiddling around with the red wire and the blue wire, he steels himself, pulls out his gun, and fires into the bomb, knowing that the bullet will set of the conventional explosives but ruin the symmetry of the shock wave, thus preventing a nuclear detonation.

He's blown back from the bomb, showered with plutonium debris. Kidman wants to run back in to help him, but the other members of the team won't let her, saying, "He's gone, he's gone." Clooney smokes a last cigarette and dies. He's retrieved by a decontamination team in those inflatable yellow suits and has to be buried in a lead coffin.

OK, I stole parts of it from Heinlein's "The Long Watch". So? They're never going to make that into a movie (I hope), so why not?

Anonymous said...

[I spoke it out loud when writing this]:
First memory: One of the greatest storys ever, from FM, read in my early teens. Such a masterpiece.
Second memory: The best car chase ever. Almost wet my pants watching it. (Yes, I was desperatly in need to go to the bathroom, but couldn´t leave the chase.)
BTW, the big f#@% question:
What was in the Case? I think dave should start a poll.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Ronin was pretty dang good, but I thought that chase went on a little too long. I may have to see it again to be sure, but it seemed like it went on and on and on.

I also recall some flap about that Paris chase because Princess Diana's death was right there. Ronin was filmed long before that hapened, though.

West said...

I'm going to have to watch PEACEMAKER, again. I don't remember it being that cool.

I've never seen Ronin. That may change, soon.

David C said...

I really liked both these movies.

THE PEACEMAKER could've become a good "franchise series" if it'd performed better. I like the inventiveness of it, and even if the plot is similar to stuff we've seen many times before, the execution is not. It's the first urban car chase I've seen that feels the way such a thing would actually happen in real life.

That's a big part of RONIN too. Frankenheimer was a real-life racing guy, which brought a lot of verisimilitude to things. Interesting anecdote: When filming high-speed car footage, Frankenheimer had the actors *in* the cars as much as possible to get honest reaction shots. And "driver" actors would often be in a right-hand drive car while the unseen stunt driver did the real driving.

Anonymous said...

Every time I saw Ronin listed in the cable guide, I’d get pissed because it had nothing to do with the Frank Miller comic. It would fool me everytime

Anonymous said...

RONIN's awesomeness is such that it includes not one, not two, but THREE former Bond villians in what must be some kind of record of orgiastic bad-assitude.

Does anyone want to try and guess 'em?

Anonymous said...

Dave, you didn't even mention about the interrogation scene with the German trucking company guy and George Clooney (in Peacemaker).
That scene was great!

George's character looks right into the security camera and before they can figure out who he is, he's not only tied up the guy but shot him in the legs, gotten the passwrod he needed, and gotten back out.
And Nicole Kidman freaking out some more saying "THIS is your backup plan?!?"
Kick ass (and very Bondian, I think)!

Anonymous said...

Loved the freaked-out, shreeky voiced reaction of the roadworkers when they see the car erupting in flames:
"Ca va exploder!"

...well, no fucking shit dude...

Paris may be the car chase capital of the world: "Taxi", anyone?

Anonymous said...

Best car chase scenes I have seen where in the small films BMW had out awhile ago with Clive Owen, man those were badass.

Anonymous said...

Paris may be the car chase capital of the world: "Taxi", anyone?


Dave: If you don't know the French 'Taxi' series, you are hardcore missing out.

C'est plus Airwolf!

Health Incognito said...

OMG, RONIN! Those car chase scenes were what made me want to own a car again after three years of public transportation hippydom in SF.

So why is it that I loved RONIN but hated THE SPANISH PRISONER?

Anonymous said...

The thing about the car chases in Ronin...from what everyone has told me, that's pretty much how people everywhere outside North America drive. Like my mom went to visit her dad in Spain one year and she came back saying, "Yeah, they just haul ass onto the sidewalks there and it's your job to get out of the way. No traffic laws there..."

Anonymous said...

Stellan Skarsgard should be a Bond villain - he's great in Ronin. I love the scene where he's talking to a would-be buyer, who he knows from somewhere and he takes him to a playground. There's a little girl playing on the swings, and Skarsgard calmly takes out a gun and takes aim - without any trace of emotion - only missing killing the girl because the other guy jerks his arm at the last moment. The guy asks what the hell he's doing, and Skarsgard says:
"That little girl meant nothing to me. I didn't know her. But I was willing to kill her to prove a point. I don't particularly like YOU - imagine what I'll do to you if you try to fuck with me."
Damn, that's cold!

David Campbell said...

Loved Spartan.

MoXmas said...

The best part of the car chases for me was related to the thing David C mentioned: that the actors were in the cars going crazy fast.

As a result, Skipp Sudduth (as the driver in the gang) and Robert De Niro both look pis-their-pants scared in every chase.

It just points out how bad ass Jean Reno is: in the chase shots in that clip Dave posted, De Niro is gritting his teeth and pulling his head further and further back and praying not to die.

Reno is looking for the car lighter, so he can light up a Gauloise.

Anonymous said...

Ronin is one of the best movies made in any genre during the past decade, period. If you dare to dispute this, I will send DeNiro to your house to go all samurai on your sorry butt.

Basically, David Mamet rocks.

Anonymous said...

"OK, I stole parts of it from Heinlein's "The Long Watch". So?"

Frankly, *more* people need to steal from that.

Anonymous said...

Ronin is a great little movie.

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