Ransom (1996) Film Review

Rating 18
Length 2h19
Release 7.2.1997
Director Ron Howard
About When a millionaire’s son is kidnapped, he adopts a novel technique for tracking down the kidnappers and recovering his son.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Netflix, ITV4 @ 23:20 on 8th November 2021

The Good

  • In an opening akin to Speed (1994), you’re given a lot of information in a short space of time. It’s not pulling any punches and you know who the target is and you sense it could happen at any moment. There’s little things that will set a viewer on edge; from the party happening in the millionaire’s penthouse apartment, to a reporter gaining access and approaching Mel Gibson’s character.
  • The story itself is brilliantly developed. Without spoiling anything, this film makes daring choices that, as a bystander, you can actually see logic in. Not only that, you are in a position where you know the moves of both the protagonist and antagonist. Something that is not often pulled off as well as this film managed. Being in a position of knowing something Tom doesn’t could have had that ‘they’re behind you’ panto tone but with Ron Howard’s direction, it holds much more gravitas to it.
  • Ron Howard is a competent film maker. He’s not someone who has a style that could enable me to pick out his filmography, but there’s that seal of quality on them.
  • Sitting here in 2021, it’s hard to remember that Mel Gibson was consistently in the annual Quigley List of top ten most bankable stars. While he seems to be able to avoid ‘cancel culture’, he certainly hasn’t been a leading man for at least a decade.
    However, thirty seconds of screen time in something like Ransom and any viewer who was alive before Y2K will remember why this man was so in demand. This isn’t to say I excuse anything he’s accused of or absolve him of any of the antisemetic views, misogyny or domestic violence. What I am saying however, is that there is a detachment of the actor and the roles he plays. Something I don’t think can be said of others.
    Gibson commands your attention as Tom, he wins you over before there’s even a need for you to be on his side. Then there are those moments of vulnerability, of determination and Gibson is the only one who could have ever given us this Tom Mullen. As I was watching, all I could think of was that we don’t have a contemporary actor that could bring to a role what Gibson does and, toxicity of him as a person aside, it really is a shame.
  • The rest of the cast is incredible. From the stroke of genius of having Rene Russo reteam with Gibson, to up and coming Liev Schreiber doing sketchy the best way he knows how. All of this quality casting ensures that there’s a quality to match the action. Had this been made today, or even then with a lesser director, the focus may have only been on the action and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good.
  • One thing I do love about the dialogue is that Tom questions how much the kidnappers ask for in ransom. Had he not done this, I may have thought £2 million was the going rate to demand from millionaires. That one line allows those viewing from the future to understand that something’s not quite right.

The Bad (spoilers within)

  • It is not a perfect plot. There are some bits that, because of how good this film is, stick out like sore thumbs. Quite a lot of it occurs in the final act. Firstly, I’m not so sure police are allowed to accept reward money? For me, that’s a big red flag and I’m wondering why Tom is so accepting of handing over the money.
    Secondly, the FBI now know the detective is with Tom, so lay person me works out pretty quickly that the jackass is going to have his radio on him. So why the fuck would you let him know you’re on to him?!
  • I don’t buy the motivate of Jimmy Shaker. I needed more of a connection to Tom to buy it fully. The idea of Tom buying his ‘way out of things’ came across as such a trigger that it was personal to Jimmy. There was also the repeated line that the money was deserved, that it was *his* money. There’s still a question mark over it all.

The Ugly

  • Poor Donnie Walberg. First you have to deal with the fact that Donnie is Marky Marky if you’d ordered him from Wish. Then his character goes and wins the viewer over with his remedial charm and all round good heart. I, personally, was rooting for him to be the one that saved the day, before the proverbial rug was pulled and he exited stage left before the audience hits the halfway mark.

Final Thoughts

It’s not a popcorn watch in the slightest. It’s gritty and will leave any viewer on the edge of their seat and perhaps even hugging their little ones a little closer. A wickedly smart story that will keep your attention, long after the credits roll.

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