Ransom (1996)

RANSOM, Ron Howard's underwhelming though thoroughly plotted remake 
of the little-known Glenn Ford film, stars Mel Gibson as a self-
promoting, self-protecting, self-made billionaire whose world comes 
crashing to a halt when his young son is kidnapped.  The catch?  As 
the ads have revealed for several months now, instead of given them 
what they want, he takes their money to a television station and 
offers a two million-dollar bounty on the kidnapper's heads.  This 
twist, which comes about an hour into the film, is exciting in 
principle, but doesn't send the story charging forward.  Instead of 
Mel gearing up with a band of bounty hunters-- and wouldn't *that* 
be something to see!-- we get even more talk, a couple of keen role 
reversals, and an entirely odd final confrontation between Gibson 
and Gary Sinese, who plays the mastermind behind the crime.

Sinese is a waste, which I'll detail later, but Gibson gets to go 
nuts and that's what we pay him for.  Other prominent players 
include Rene Russo (TIN CUP), looking less plastic than usual.  She 
has little to do as the trophy wife, but contributes to the overall 
suspense by appearing shorter than her co-star.  (How did they do 
that, you'll wonder.  Morphing?  Trick photography??)  The ever-
prolific Delroy Lindo (BROKEN ARROW, CLOCKERS) plays the head FBI 
agent and he's always good.  Most interesting is the inclusion of 
Lily Taylor and Liev Schreiber, established actors from the world 
of indy cinema who play two of the grungy, Gen-X henchmen.  The 
presence of these unsavory young characters in a Hollywood Event 
Picture-- not to mention in a Ron Howard film, for gosh sakes!-- 
suggests that the new villain of the nineties may be of the dirty, 
tattooed, cigarette-smoking, cereal-eating, cyber-phreaking, rerun-
watching variety.  Who's that guy with the nose ring, Robin?  I 
don't know, Batman, better blow him away.

Both heroes and villains get equal time and that makes for a well-
balanced story, with everyone giving a game performance, even when 
they don't entirely fit in.  Like Ms. Russo.  The glaring exception 
is Gary Sinese, who's horribly miscast as the cop-turned-criminal-
mastermind.  Lieutenant Dan is a good actor who, here, has almost 
no tangible weight as a heavy.  Frankly, he's about as threatening 
as Joe Pesci's Leo Getz.  Okay, okay, okay, but witness his hollow 
monologue about THE TIME MACHINE to see what he's missing.  If the 
characters don't always work, at least the plot machinery does.  It 
keeps churning away, like the Morlock machinery beneath that future 
world.  The end result is a reasonably entertaining popcorn pic-- 
two hours of multiplex filler that only crashes and burns when it 
tries to take itself too seriously.  If Ron Howard had recognized 
RANSOM as the potboiler that it is, he might've trimmed some of the 
hokum.  (Or restored some of the logic.  Or replaced that fuzzy   
score from James Horner.  Ugh.)  Try not to giggle when something 
serious is seriously funny, like when Sinese says with a straight 
face to Taylor: "You know what you're scared of?  Your own human-
ity."  I laughed out loud.  (Rated "R"/121 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as Money For Something

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