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April 22, 2013

Ransom (1996)
Director: Ron Howard
Actors: Mel Gibson, Gary Sinise, Rene Russo


Synopsis: Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson), a hugely successful airline entrepreneur, has his child snatched while at a fair in a New York City park. The kidnappers send Mullen a ransom demand, but when the planned child/cash swap goes awry, Mullen questions the motive of the extortionists, and conceives of a different method to get his son back.

Review: To be perfectly honest, this is an hour and a half of absolute Hollywood claptrap. It’s one of the most lurid, sensational mainstream thrillers imaginable, and although there is some guilty pleasure to be procured from the knowingly schlocky machinations of the film, the sheer plethora of silly plot holes and nonsensical moments does sort of ebb away at one’s suspension of disbelief.

Probably the funniest/most nauseating (take your pick) element of Ransom is its air of pure hysteria. When the first phone call rocks in from the kidnappers, all the FBI men in Mullen’s apartment run around like headless chickens, and Delroy Lindo’s ‘hostage consultant’ gives Mullen one of the most extended and unchilled speeches I’ve seen in the movies (at one point, I even thought Mullen would miss the call because of Lindo’s cop refusing to shut up). Presumably, in reality everyone would be a lot more calm and dignified in this sort of operation?

The narrative begins to unravel in its final act after a relatively taut, enjoyable preceding patch. Particularly once Gary Sinise’s malevolent cop has cooked up his plan to get hold of Mullen’s $4m bounty – the three obvious questions to me were: a) presumably a policeman cannot collect reward money?; b) why would Sinise’s cop go to Mullen’s house to collect his cheque, when the only person who can out him as the villain – Mullen’s son – might be there?; and c) presumably Sinise’s cop’s ‘hero’ story would be treated with much more scepticism than it initially was, particularly considering Mullen had in essence incentivised someone (including any of the abductors) to facilitate a safe rescue? Director Ron Howard hardly distinguishes himself either. It’s an utterly director-proof piece of work, and the one moment where a cinematographic choice seems to have been made – the shift to monochrome at the story’s end – has absolutely no purpose at all. (April 2013)

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