If there are any rules in Hollywood, one of the most popular has to be "don't create, appropriate." Why write when you can steal? Ronin is a prime example of that kind of moviemaking, but for a picture that is made up almost entirely of borrowed ideas, this one just doesn't make sense. The bottom line is, it's a ridiculous movie: a thriller that doesn't thrill.

The opening sequence gives you an early clue to the problems with Ronin. It builds a high level of tension, with some edgy cutting and good film noir acting, but there's no payoff. As the scene fizzles out, you realize it was just a tease. The moviemakers want you to see Ronin as a character study, a portrait of the life of a hired gun. The opening and ending sequences point to that, but in between you've got the better part of two hours of chases, explosions, and gunfights. The movie isn't nearly as thoughtful as they'd like you to believe. If you want car chases, rent Bullitt or The French Connection.

Should you decide to rent this one, beware of the scene where De Niro has a bullet removed from his gut, without anesthesia, by someone with no surgical experience. It's excruciating to watch, and largely gratuitous. It's meant to show you what a tough guy the character is, but he's been such a genial, subdued fellow up to that point that the effect is more comical than anything else.