Cinema: Abstractly Expressive

If action movies are like action paintings--and we think they are--Ronin is a sly masterpiece

At some point in recent years, action movies began to resemble pop versions of action painting. Their connections with traditional narrative and their concern for realistic representations of the natural world and the way human beings might plausibly behave in that world virtually vanished. Watching a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon sequel or anything by the Hong Kong action specialist John Woo, you entered a two-dimensional world in which what you mostly thought about was, as it were, the surface of the canvas--the tension and originality with which the director slapped, slathered or slashed his colors on it. Like their painterly...

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