Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: Ronin Vs. Out of Sight

1998 is right in the middle of an era in cinema that I have great affection for. The success of former video store employee Quentin Tarantino had been hugely influential and motivated a general expanded interest in independent film and in the value of both movie trivia and the expertise of your local hole-in-the-wall movie rental clerk. Many of the bigger studios had scrambled to put together projects and promote filmmakers who would help to bolster their street credibility and make them seem in tune with the times. While at moments this resulted in some movies that only had the markers associated with the sort of stuff they thought we wanted to see, but none of the genuine connection with the material that had made it interesting to begin with, I’d say the overall result was positive. Creative and idiosyncratic efforts were more likely to get the green light, and I consider that to be a good thing. At the same time, we were still getting a lot of very mainstream movies with pretty varied results, which served to remind us both of the value of earlier studio approaches and of the corporate malaise that independent films were in part a reaction against. It was a fine time to be a movie fan.

Today we’re looking at a couple of crime-themed flicks with pretty different styles and tones. But both are pretty darned entertaining, aren’t they? Let’s take a look at Ronin and Out of Sight and decide which gang of thieves should move forward in our 1998 bracket!

In yesterday’s first matchup, we saw more votes for A Simple Plan than we’d expected, but in the end Saving Private Ryan went home with the win. It has to be considered one of the favorites to win it all, but maybe the winner of today’s contest can knock it off.

First up today is John Frankenheimer’s alternately pulse-pounding and philosophical European intrigue picture, Ronin. The idea for the movie had its origins in the imagination of writer J.D. Zeik, who became interested in the concept of the Ronin after reading the popular Japanese historical fiction novel “Shogun.” Several years later, while staying in Nice, France he decided to set his story there based on seeing some heavily armed guards patrolling. The eventual story made use of the Ronin archetype of a masterless samurai as a reflection of the DeNiro character’s status as a hired gun who had previously worked in a more official capacity under CIA direction. This parallel is drawn during some downtime in the home of a man who takes him in after he suffers a wound, using the man’s hobby miniatures to tell the story of a ronin. There has been some confusion about how the final script was arrived at, however, because prominent playwright David Mamet was brought in late in pre-production to expand Robert DeNiro’s role and to add a female character. Frankhenheimer has stated that Mamet actually completely reworked the entire script, saying that they didn’t shoot a word of Zeik’s original script. But Mamet had a personal rule about accepting a credit alongside any other writer, and since the story was indeed Zeik’s, a pseudonym was used for Mamet, with “Richard Weisz” garnering credit.

While Ronin is a stylish action piece set on the big stage of international intrigue, the characters and stakes in the Elmore Leonard adaptation Out of Sight are decidedly smaller picture, but it can be argued that they’re far more personal. George Clooney plays a career bank robber who escapes from prison and immediately targets the home of a man who bragged about having a fortune in diamonds at his house. If you think I gave away too much of the plot in that quick synopsis, you should take a look at the trailer below. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, then you probably shouldn’t. Leonard was on a Hollywood hot streak in the 1990s, with successful adaptations of his Get Shorty starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, and Danny DeVito and his Rum Punch taken on as Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarrantino to follow up Pulp Fiction. Although his early novels tended to be westerns, Leonard would eventually become best known for stylish and clever crime dramas that were naturals for film treatments. Much like with Zeik and Ronin, Leonard was inspired to created the novel Out of Sight based on a visual of a figure with a weapon, this time it was a photograph of an attractive young federal agent standing outside a courthouse with a shotgun resting on her hip. Before long he had his story of the woman becoming entangled with an escaped convict in the trunk of his getaway car. The story proved plenty cinematic and steamy, and screenwriter Scott Frank (Dead Again, Minority Report, Logan) won multiple awards for his script, including a Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

So, which set of ne’er do wells do you want to move on to our next round? Vote here and tell us about it in the comments section!

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Post Author: daffystardust

0 thoughts on “Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: Ronin Vs. Out of Sight

    lebeau

    (January 18, 2018 - 9:11 am)

    Either I am underestimating the popularity of SPR or you are over-estimating it. I am probably way off, but I don’t expect to see the WWII drama in the finals. That may be wishful thinking on my part, because Out of Sight is hands down my favorite movie of the year and I want to see it go all the way. So watch, it will get knocked out in the first round and SPR will win the whole enchilada proving once again that I am out of touch with readers. Sigh.

      daffystardust

      (January 18, 2018 - 9:17 am)

      I doubt that either of us has a perfect grasp on what we will end up seeing. I obviously had no idea that Roger Rabbit would prove so popular and Die Hard would come up short. If Mulan wins this bracket we might need to consider the power of our Disney guests.

        lebeau

        (January 18, 2018 - 9:26 am)

        I’m about as reliable as flipping a coin with my bracket game predictions these days. But I’ll keep guessing and giving everyone the opportunity to point and laugh. Having said that, I am reasonably confident that either the winner of today’s match or Saving Private Ryan will represent the upper half of the brackets in the finals. The animated movies and disaster flicks help represent the year in movies, but they don’t (or shouldn’t) stand a chance of making it to the semi-finals.

    robbushblog

    (January 18, 2018 - 9:53 am)

    OUT OF SIGHT is just that. RONIN, aside from the car chases, was just okay.

      daffystardust

      (January 18, 2018 - 9:55 am)

      I think I probably like Ronin more than you do, but I do think it has third act problems. This quite often becomes the difference between a truly well-conceived project overall and something that was a good idea but didn’t have an endgame in mind.

    Bedford

    (January 18, 2018 - 10:17 am)

    The best two movies on the list are the Big Lebowski and Rushmore.

    jeffthewildman

    (January 18, 2018 - 10:18 am)

    Love both movies. Saw Ronin in theaters during its original release. Caught Out Of Sight later on video. Both hold up quite well 20 years later. On the whole, my vote goes for Out Of Sight. To me, it’s Steven Soderbergh’s best film.

      jestak2

      (January 18, 2018 - 10:33 am)

      As I indicated in commenting on his birthday article a few days back, Out of Sight is my favorite of Soderbergh’s films as well.

        lebeau

        (January 18, 2018 - 11:01 am)

        I agreed with you then and I still do.

      lebeau

      (January 18, 2018 - 11:00 am)

      I saw Out of Sight in theaters and quickly ran out and bought it on video. My mom likes George Clooney, so she wanted to watch it. Thing is, she didn’t quite get the way the flashbacks worked. She kept asking my why Clooney was back in jail.

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