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By Tom Meek | September 14, 1998

“The French Connection” meets “The Dirty Dozen” in this Euro-thriller with a distinctly American flavor. Robert De Niro heads an international crew of covert operatives — former CIA, KGB and IRA personnel dislocated by changing politics, thus the Japanese term “Ronin” referring to a samurai without a master — to recover a mysterious case for a faceless employer. The concept is intriguing and the car chases are pure adrenaline — though director John Frankenheimer steals about every trick from car chase master William Friedkin (“The French Connection” and “To Live and Die in LA”) — but when the cards are exposed in the end, the film surrenders to cliche and silly excess. The performances by De Niro, Stellan Skarsgard, Natascha McElhone, and Jean Reno are on the mark, it’s too bad that the script by David Mamet under the pen name Richard Weisz can’t carry off what it started.

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