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1 item from 1996

Film review: 'Ransom'

4 November 1996 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Mel Gibson doesn't have to paint his face blue in "Ransom" because he's positively blue in the face, expressing the rage of a father whose son has been kidnapped. A knuckle-tightening thriller directed by Ron Howard and featuring a full-throttle, pull-no-punches performance from Gibson, this Touchstone film should capture a king's ransom at the boxoffice for Buena Vista.

In this tight and twisting thriller, Gibson stars as Tom Mullen, a self-made millionaire whose against-the-grain sensibilities and can-do gumption have made him an airline tycoon. An edgy and instinctive guy, Mullen has also succeeded on the family front just as spectacularly. With a supportive and striking wife (Rene Russo) and a rambunctiously smart son (Brawley Nolte), he's the king of his Manhattan penthouse world.

Common to all those who have ascended so fast, Mullen has also ruffled a few feathers along the way and caught the attention of those who wish to profit from his success. He's been investigated for bribing a union official to avert a strike against his airline, and his brash ways have obviously rattled other cages. Not surprisingly, the charismatic, high-profile business tycoon is targeted by a devious band of criminals who consider him a bird for the plucking. Led by an egomaniacal and technically savvy ringleader (Gary Sinise), these desperate goons kidnap Mullen's young son, demanding a $2 million ransom.

Playing by the rules, Mullen calls in the FBI, but things go awry when standard procedure botches things up: He fears that going by the book will only get his son killed. He's always followed his instincts and he senses, quite rightly, that the kidnappers' cunning leader will surely kill his son once the money is delivered. Mullen's whole life has been based on daring, and he's not one to sit passively by while law enforcement performs like automatons.

In this psychologically perceptive scenario, Mullen turns the tables on the kidnappers, going on TV and announcing that not only will he not pay the ransom but he will use that money as a reward. He reasons that the only way he will see his son alive is to keep the kidnappers off-balance. The FBI is irate, and Mullen's brainy wife goes berserk, thinking his actions will surely lead to their son's death.

Spiked with the passions of a strong personal story and perambulating down unexpected plot corridors, "Ransom" gyrates with a chilling and ever-escalating intensity. Screenwriters Richard Price and Alexander Ignon have carefully steeped the story stakes in deeply personal passions and ignited a highly combustible series of dramatic explosions. In turn, director Howard has kept the story dial on a high chill, tightening the screws as well as unleashing its sinister, implosive forces.

It's Gibson's raging performance as the fiercely protective father that torches this production to its highest flashes. His edgy ferocity, capturing both his character's bravery and decency, is wonderfully explosive and genuinely sympathetic. Similarly, Russo's performance flashes with maternal mettle, evincing a woman torn between belief in her husband and love for her child.

In this type of chiller, the film is only as good as the badness of the villain, and Sinise is terrific -- rivetingly sinister as the egocentric sociopath who takes sadistic pleasure in his dark deeds. Delroy Lindo is also outstanding as a conscientious FBI agent whose sincere professionalism is tested by Mullen's manic methods.


Buena Vista

Touchstone Pictures Presents

A Brian Grazer/Scott Rudin production

A Ron Howard film

Producers Scott Rudin, Brian Grazer,

B. Kipling Hagopian

Director Ron Howard

Screenwriters Richard Price, Alexander Ignon

Story Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum

Director of photography Piotr Sobocinski

Production design Michael Corenblith

Editors Dan Hanley, Mike Hill

Costume design Rita Ryack

Music James Horner

Executive producer Todd Hallowell

Co-producers Adan Schroeder, Susan Merzbach

Casting:Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson

Associate producers Aldric La'Auli Porter,

Louisa Velis

Sound Danny Michael



Tom Mullen Mel Gibson

Kate Mullen Rene Russo

Sean Mullen Brawley Nolte

Jimmy Shaker Gary Sinise

Agent Lonnie Hawkins Delroy Lindo

Maris Connor Lili Taylor

Clark Barnes Liev Schreiber

Cubby Barnes Donnie Wahlberg

Miles Roberts Evan Handler

Agent Kimba Welch Nancy Ticotin

Agent Jack Sickler Michael Gaston

Agent Paul Rhodes

Kevin Neil McCready

Running time -- 122 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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