Personally, I would have preferred an usher to stamp "idiot" on my forehead as I exited the theater.
This film ends with a voice-over by Vincent (Jean Reno), who makes some comment having to do with the difficulty of loyalty or some such thing. Basically, it's the little speech that director John ("The Manchurian Candidate") Frankenheimer has tossed in at the end to make sure that, just in case some members of the audience had fallen asleep for two hours, they would nonetheless be made aware of the film's central theme. Personally, I would have preferred an usher to stamp "idiot" on my forehead as I exited the theater.
See, Frankenheimer tells us at the beginning of the film that Ronin were masterless warriors in feudal Japan whose liege had been killed under their protection. Thus, they were forced to wander the land, disgraced, looking for work as hired swords or bandits. Thus, you have to be pretty damn stupid not to get the word's significance to the film when a bunch of covert operatives gather and are hired by a cute Irish lass, Deirdre (Natasha McElhone), to steal a mysterious briefcase.
The operatives are Sam (Robert De Niro), Vincent, Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard), Spence (Sean Bean) and Larry (Skipp Sudduth). The man behind the operation is Seamus (Jonathan Pryce), but none of the operatives know that because Deirdre won't tell them. In fact, the operatives don't know much of anything except that they're supposed to get the briefcase. They don't know what's in it. They don't know its value or purpose.
A good mystery is a story in which many potential answers are weeded out until only one remains. People come away from a mystery thinking, "So that's what happened!" Frankenheimer glorifies his own inability to cope with anything so complicated as a conclusion by celebrating uncertainty as though uncertainty itself were some sort of intellectual accomplishment. Where I come from, the attempt to pass off one's own pathetic cluelessness as entertainment has a word for it: "Gallagher."
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