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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Retro Review: Ransom (1996)

Cast: Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Delroy Lindo, Lili Taylor, Liev Schreiber, Donnie Wahlberg
Genre: Crime Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $300 million

Plot: When a millionaire's son is kidnapped, he adopts a novel technique for tracking down the kidnappers and bringing his son back

'Pay Up'

1996's release, Ransom was Ron Howard's fifth film of the 1990s & it came off the back of the huge hit, Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks and sees Mel Gibson as an airline tycoon whose 8-yr-old son is kidnapped and under the leadership of a two-faced cop, the group demand $2 million for his release. 

Okay, this is one Ron Howard film I could get behind: Ransom tries to pull out all the stops and cranking up the suspense in a Taken-style premise that was written and conceived a decade before the Liam Neeson led-flicks existed, and packing in a few twists and scenes that came out of the blue. 

For a while, it was difficult buying Mel Gibson in an everyman role as a millionaire who has everything, but really he was, fine in arguably his last enduring role, before his meltdown in the public eye. He shares some brief scenes that are somewhat tangible as the agony unfolds for Tom in his mounting efforts to retrieve his son, Sean. Rene Russo reunites with Gibson after the third Lethal Weapon outing as the onscreen missus, Kate; yet unfortunately, her character seems underwritten and is mostly in the wilderness for pretty much most of the film and in angsty mode. Nick Nolte's son is supposed to be the kid we should feel sorry for, but he comes across as mute after being held hostage & lacking in character. 

Ransom also features three impressive and underrated dramatic actors, Gary Sinise, Lili Taylor and Liev Schreiber as the cogent bad guys, although both the latter two were a little underused and I would like to have seen them play an even bigger role in the story. There are 2 or 3 dud scenes; one involving Taylor and Sinise as the film's antagonist coupling in bed and if it hadn't been for the casting, this would have been flustered and lacking in entertainment. It would have been interesting to see Tom and Kate's marriage literally disintegrating & how the kidnapping truly tests and pushes their relationship to the very brink.  

A mid-1990s thriller, it is formulaic and predictable insofar as to how the story will turn out in the end; though whilst it should have been spectacular, in the end, Ransom eventually settles for solid, which is still all right by me - and that is despite the idea on how being affluent and rich, no matter your circumstances doesn't buy happiness, which poses further discussion. 

The fact that he manages to tone down the melodramatics slightly, despite its lengthy runtime, wherein they could have also trimmed down 20 mins of the church scene, also makes Ransom bearable. 

Final Verdict:

Ron Howard allows the film's tension to bubble up and suffice and gives the main cast opportunities to breathe. Generally, his direction can be so sterile and too subtle it overrides the whole story and movie, it can make the experience tedious to endure, making it feel akin to a TV movie, but here, with Ransom, he makes an audacious attempt at making a Ron Howard movie that is accessible, as well as one that is eminently enticing.


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