' ' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Forgotten Great Moments in Movie History

No movie blog has written about John Frankenheimer’s 1998 thriller “Ronin”, currently registering a perfect score, as it has going on 22 years, per the Cinema Romantico Boysenberry Barometer, as much as this blog. And yet, for all the words we’ve spilled, the character of Seamus O’Rourke has mostly – if not entirely – been absent from the discussion. He’s The Man Behind the Curtain, trying to get the case, the case that everyone wants, even if they don't seem to know what the case contains because it’s the MacGuffin, but using the ringleader of the Ronin – Dierdre (Natascha McElhone) – to get to the case. He’s played by Jonathan Pryce, a recent first-time Oscar nominee for Best Actor.

Ronin, as the title cards explain, were masterless Samurai warriors, wandering the land looking for work, and “Ronin” honors that idea by making the backgrounds of these men and women vague, where details like Dierdre’s “charming Irish lilt”, to quote another character, are meant to fill in blanks, partially. Because Seamus, as his name implies, has an Irish lilt too, we can also assume his background. But his background takes a further twist later in the movie, at a precarious moment in which the all-important case is missing, when coy dialogue suggests he’s been cut out of the IRA loop, quite possibly because of his own dubious machinations. It paints Seamus with the brush of desperation, which Pryce plays to the sweaty hilt when he brings Dierdre back to his hideout where they have a row.

Before having that row, though, he has to rough up Gregor (Stellan Skarsgård), the double-crossing Ronin, and roughing up someone will wear the rougher upper out. So Seamus needs a roughing up digestif; he needs a shot of whiskey.

So he picks up the bottle and the shot glass.

But given the crude conditions, something, who knows what, is still in the shot glass, probably from the night before, so he dumps whatever-it-is on the floor.

And to get rid of the undoubtedly foul remnants of whatever-it-was, he takes his coat and wipes out the shot glass.

Then he pours his shot.

What was it Janis Joplin sang? Ah yes. Wiping out your shot glass with your trench coat’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

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