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Ransom (1996, Mel Gibson, Rene Russo)

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The chances of the name Ron Howard occurring in the same sentence as ‘tough thriller’ always seemed pretty remote, but with Ransom he showed he can shoot a movie to stand alongside the works of Michael Mann or Curtis Hanson. Mel Gibson plays Tom Mullen, a former fighter pilot who has built a major airline from the bottom up. But his success brings danger: his son Sean (Brawley Nolte, the son of Nick) is kidnapped and held for $2m ransom.

The kidnap gang is led by corrupt cop Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise), who once investigated Mullen for illegal payments to end a strike: he figures Mullen will buy his way out of trouble. Mullen involves the FBI, led by agent Lonnie Hawkins (Delroy Lindo), but when they bungle a drop and his son’s life is in danger, Mullen takes matters into his own hands. He goes on national television offering a $2m bounty on the heads of the kidnappers and the safe return of his son and now it’s Shaker and his gang who are in danger…

A remake of the 1956 thriller with Glenn Ford, the two stand-out performances are from Gibson as the father who will do anything to rescue his son and Sinise as the vicious yet intelligent kidnapper. There are, of course, red herrings and cliff-hanging moments galore, but since the kidnappers’ identities are known from the outset, the tension comes from working out the denouement (the film is from Disney, so the chances of Sean’s death were always going to be nil). And there’s also a lot of pleasure to be had from the distinct noir look of the film, thanks to the camerawork of Piotr Sobocinski, long time collaborator with award-winning Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.

production details
USA | 117 minutes | 1996

Director: Ron Howard
Script: Richard Price, Alexander Ignon,

cast
Rene Russo as Katherine Mullen
Paul Guilfoyle as Wallace
Lili Taylor as Maris
Donnie Wahlberg as Cubby Barnes
Michael Gaston as Agent Jack Sickler
John Ortiz as Roberto
Mick O’Rourke as FBI SWAT Team #1
Peter Anthony Tambakis as Nelson
Mel Gibson as Tom Mullen
Gary Sinise as Det. Jimmy Shaker
Delroy Lindo as Agent Lonnie Hawkins
Brawley Nolte as Sean Mullen
Liev Schreiber as Clark Barnes
Evan Handler as Miles Roberts
Nancy Ticotin as Agent Kimba Welch
Kevin Neil McCready as Agent Paul Rhodes
José Zúñiga as David Torres
Dan Hedaya as Jackie Brown
Allen Bernstein as Bob Stone
Iraida Polanco as Fatima
A.J. Benza as Reporter Guest
Daniel May Wong as Agent Sam
Donna Hanover as News Reporter
Anton Evangelista as FBI Agent
Joe Bacino as Cop #1
Carl S. Redding as Cop #2
James Georgiades as Cop #3
Christian Maelen as Cop #4
David Vadim as Cop #5
Michael Countryman as Bank Manager
Cheryl Howard as Science Fair Coordinator
James Ritz as Science Fair Judge
Craig Castaldo as Radioman
Dell Maara as Liquor Store Perp
Mike Hodge as Man at Party
Henry Kingi Jr. as FBI SWAT Team #2
Roy Farfel as FBI SWAT Team #3
Lex D. Geddings as FBI SWAT Sniper