Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Delroy Lindo, Brawley Nolte, Lili Taylor, Evan Handler, Donnie Wahlberg, Liev Schreiber
Released: November 8, 1996
WARNING: I AM GOING TO GIVE AWAY MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS MOVIE RIGHT FROM THE START, SO IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN RANSOM AND PLAN TO SOMEDAY, THEN STOP READING THIS!!!! SERIOUSLY, TURN BACK NOW! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! AND GOOD FOR YOU FOR NEVER BEING SPOILED ON A 20 YEAR OLD MOVIE IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS!!
Alright, I can never be too careful with my spoiler warnings. I haven't gotten a complaint once, so I think my warnings help! I've seen Ransom twice in the past, but it's been quite awhile since I last saw it, it felt like I was watching it for the first time. These were the only things that I remembered (and now you will understand why I put that large spoiler warning above!): the scene where Mel Gibson dives into a pool to retrieve a key, that Gary Sinise played a cop that was involved with the kidnapping, and that the kid is reunited with his parents. Those three things were the only things I remembered, although, for some reason, I thought the reveal of Gary Sinise as the kidnapper was revealed much later in the movie, but I must be thinking when Mel Gibson figures out it was him.
Mel Gibson and Rene Russo play married couple Tom and Kate Mullen who have a ten year old son, Sean (played by Brawley Nolte - he is Nick's son). They live in a penthouse in Manhattan as Tom is multi-millionaire owner of a successful airliner. Their son is taken when they're in Central Park at a science fair. Kate is a judge and Tom, who was with Sean, gets distracted and starts talking to people. When both parents realize their son isn't where he was standing a few minutes ago, they begin to get a bit frantic and start looking for him and Kate uses the intercom system to page him to the judges' table, but that doesn't work. When they get home, they have an e-mail waiting for them. So they logged on to their NETSCAPE (hahahah, remember Netscape? I personally never used it; I was using AOL back in '96...remember AOL? Remember IMing? Those were they days, I tell you!) and there's a video of their son laying on a bed, blindfolded and handcuffed to the bed. There's also an audio recording of a man with an altered voice telling them he wants a two million dollar ransom for their son that is to be delivered within 48 hours and he will contact them later on how to deliver the money. He tells them if they get the police involved, he will kill their kid. Naturally, Tom and Kate are very shaken up at this. Even though they are told not to get the police involved, they do get the FBI involved, which makes no sense to me, but whatever. And the thing is, the kidnapper KNOWS that the FBI is involved. But it turns out to be a good thing he has the FBI helping him.
Special Agents Hawkins (Delroy Lindo) and his team trace the calls that Tom receives from the kidnapper. He thinks the kidnapper may be connected to a guy named Jackie Brown who is currently in prison. There was a whole side story with a shady business deal Tom did in the past and he paid off some people and somehow Brown was sent to jail, though he thinks it should have been Tom. I have no idea, but they just wanted to give the audience a red herring (even though the audience knows who the real kidnapper is long before Tom and everyone else does).
The real kidnapper is a police officer named Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise). He has a team which consists of his girlfriend, Maris (Lili Taylor), who was also the waitstaff at one of the Mullen's fancy parties, so she was an "insider". And there's also three other guys played by Evan Handler (for all of you Sex and the City fans, he played Charlotte's divorce lawyer turned husband), Donnie Wahlberg, and Liev Schreiber. When we first see Shaker, we think he has found Sean and is going to rescue him, but surprise! He's the mastermind behind the whole kidnapping! Shaker calls Tom with a disguised voice and tells him how he's going to drop off the money which includes jumping into a pool with his clothes on to retrieve a key at the bottom (which also burns out the mic he's wearing) and changing into different clothes and driving a different car so the FBI can no longer follow him. Tom is lucky he didn't kill his kid since he didn't follow instructions about not getting the police involved. Actually, Tom changed a lot of the rules that Shaker had planned for him, so he is very lucky nothing happened to his son!
After all this game of cat and mouse, Shaker instructs him to turn off a certain exit and give the money to Wahlberg, who, in turn, will give him the address. When Wahlberg demands the money, Tom demands the address, but Wahlberg doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. There's a big shootout as the police have located them and Wahlberg has died before Tom can get the location of where his son is out of him. He believes Shaker never had any intention of ever giving back his son because he could tell Wahlberg had no idea what he was talking about when he asked for an address.
Shaker decides to try another drop off for the money, but this time Tom has different plans. He tells the kidnapper to turn on his TV and makes a stop at the news station, as being a prominent business man, his story has made not only national news, but WORLD news. On live TV, he announces that he will no longer pay the ransom, but instead offer a bounty of two million dollars for whoever turns in the kidnapper and ups the offer to four million dollars the next day after Shaker personally threatened Kate. Tom and Kate know Sean is alive because the kidnapper put him on the phone to prove it. Tom also announces that if his son is killed, then there will be no money rewarded. His wife and Agent Hawkins are against this plan and tell him he just needs to pay the ransom, but Tom holds his ground. He thinks this is the only way he will get his son back alive.
Shaker calls Tom, one last time and demands the money right then and now or else he will kill Sean. Tom still refuses and a gun shot is heard. This is the first time Tom breaks down, thinking his son is really dead and what has he done? But it was just a warning shot and instead Shaker has other ideas where he plans to be the hero and pretend he's the one who saved Sean. He frames his other accomplices and kills them, making it look like they were the masterminds behind the whole thing and that he has found and rescues Sean. After Sean is reunited with his parents, Shaker comes to the apartment the next day to collect his money. He and Tom were supposed to meet at his office, somewhere else on another day, but he tells Tom he couldn't wait any longer and needed the money right away. This turns out to be a very stupid movie for the criminal because Sean, who is hiding behind a door and only his father can see him, recognizes Shaker's voice and judging by his reaction, Tom knows he was the kidnapper. Shaker has figured out Tom knows who he really is, so he takes him by gunpoint and demand he drive him to the bank to get the money, then on to one of his private jets to fly to Mexico. Tom tells him he has to call the airport to fuel a jet and as we see him talking, we see he has called Agent Hawkins. They get his money at the bank, then there's a big shootout and Shaker is bloodied, but he has enough life left in him to lift his gun and try to shoot Tom, but Agent Hawkins kills him first. Shaker, I mean, he kills the bad guy.
I like that it turns the table with the offering of the bounty, but it's a pretty run of the mill kidnapping movie. I haven't seen it in awhile, but I think I prefer Man on Fire to this one. This movie got a little intense at times, but that movie was WAY intense. I think if I were a kidnapped character, I would much rather have Denzel Washington look for me than Mel Gibson because Denzel gets things done! Sure, Mel Gibson got his son back, but things got a little iffy there for awhile. Although, now I can't remember if Dakota Fanning survived that movie...I think she does. :::makes mental note to watch and review Man on Fire soon::::