Ronin is renowned for featuring some of the most accomplished car chase scenes in modern film. They are fast paced, with a heady mix of technical excellence and talented stuntwork – all amidst a glorious French backdrop.
For the chase scenes to look completely authentic, they were shot on location in Paris and Nice by Director John Frankenheimer and involved hundreds of stunt-personnel and quite a few car wrecks.
There’s no surprise Ronin is held in such high regard when it comes to car chase sequences – by the time Ronin was released in 1998, Frankenheimer had already earned his place in car chase cinema heaven with Grand Prix (1966) and The French Connection (1975).
As well as the break-neck pace of Ronin’s car chases it is the editing which really cements their status as some of the best ever. Whereas most filmmakers choose a particular style regarding shot-types to convey their thrills, in Ronin we are treated to everything all at once – from extreme close-ups of a gear stick being shifted, to a long shot of the cars swerving around the French streets.
Way of the Gun
An unconventional car chase but an ingenious one where hostage takers Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh (Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro) are pursued by the emotionless bodyguards, Jeffers and Obecks (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt) who are tasked with retrieving their employer’s surrogate mother.
Although possibly the slowest car chase in cinematic history, it is still one of the most nail-biting. Parker and Longbaugh evade their foe by walking their car through alleyways (like you would a skateboard) and diving into doorways, only to re-emerge elsewhere enabling them to distance themselves from their fooled pursuers.
The chase culminates in Jeffers and Obecks rounding a corner only to be met with the tail end of their targets car. They are battered and bruised, and Parker and Longbaugh are free to flee. But not before Parker decides to walk up to the written-off car and aim his gun at Jeffers’ head purposefully. He then turns and leaves. Parker’s point? Making them realise they are not just battered and bruised, but well and truly beaten as well.
The French Connection
This list wouldn’t be complete without the frantic pursuit by Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle in a 1971 Pontiac LeMans as he tries to catch up with a hitman who has escaped and is riding an elevated train.
This sequence was filmed in Brooklyn and featured an array of dangerous stunts. It’s no wonder you feel as though you’re in the thick of the action with Hackman – it was filmed without any permission from the City of New York!
As the chase gets heated, Popeye’s car gets increasingly punished and it seems as though he’s going to lose control. He almost does at one point when having to swerve out of the way of a mother and baby, instead sending a stack of crates flying instead – an often emulated cliché of the car chase set-up, but one which has never been beaten for suspense.
Children of Men
If Way of the Gun features the slowest car chase in cinematic history, then the chase in Children of Men certainly gives it a run (or walk) for its money.
Clive Owen’s Theo, has learned two things in the last 24 hours. Firstly, in an infertile world, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is pregnant. Secondly, her supposed protectors and friends have rather immoral motives and intentions. The second thing he learnt wasn’t supposed to be for his ears.
His plan? Silently grab Kee and sneak her out of the farm by jumping in a car and rolling it down the hill. They only get halfway before they disturb the angry mob, who chase them.
By this point the tension is bubbling along nicely. But by the time Theo and Kee reach the bottom of the hill only to have to push before starting the car, the tension becomes unbearable as their prey gain on them fast.
The tensest moment? When an armed Patric (Charlie Hunnam) catches up with the car and has a clear shot at them all. Before his screams of permission to shoot are cleared, Theo slams the door open, knocking him over.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is basically one long chase scene. One of the most heart-thumping sequences is when John Connor (Edward Furlong) is trying to evade the T1000 (Robert Patrick). As if the odds weren’t already stacked in the killing machine’s favour, he is driving a great big truck and Connor is on a small motorbike.
As Connor makes it onto an underpass, he stops and looks back thinking he may have escaped. Only for the T1000 to come crashing through a wall from the street onto the underpass.
Connor does his best to out-run and out-manoeuvre, but he’s losing the race. That is until Arnie’s Terminator comes flying into the fray on a powerful, grumbling Chopper. Once he grabs Connor and blows out a tyre on the truck, the pair are able to escape, as the truck crashes into a wall and explodes.
The best bit? The coolest way ever to reload a shotgun! While steering the Chopper with one hand, Arnie swings his shotgun around like a show-off cowboy, cocking it ready to fire.
N.B. I realise that technically there are no cars in this scene but two motorbikes and a truck is close enough.