Ransom Ron Howard

In his first foray into the realm of action-thriller films, director Ron Howard had a strong desire to generate empathy from audiences engaged in the plot of Ransom. It's a point he stresses in both his audio commentary, as well as in the "What Would You Do?" featurette that accompanies the DVD edition of this film, originally released in 1996. Unfortunately, it's a difficult endeavour to pull off in this overacted, inconsistent film that is only occasionally captivating enough to connect with viewers on any kind of plausible level. The film stars Mel Gibson as Tom Mullen, a wealthy airline executive who may or may not have engaged in some unethical business practices to retain his fortune. Either way, his name has been sullied by the tabloid media and when the film begins, he and his family — wife Kate (Rene Russo) and son Sean (Brawley Nolte) — are still recovering from the heat Mullen has drawn from both the press and the F.B.I. The story kicks into gear rather quickly when Sean goes missing in a crowded park in broad daylight. Every parent's worst nightmare is lived, as Tom and Kate are both present in separate areas of the park but preoccupied enough to only occasionally keep an eye on their son. Assuming the worst, their fears are confirmed when they're emailed video footage of a duct tape bound Sean, along with a two million dollar ransom demand. The duality of the story comes to the forefront at this point, as Howard introduces the other "family" in this picture — the abductors (played convincingly by Gary Sinise, Lili Taylor, Leiv Schreiber, and Donnie Wahlberg). After bungling by the hapless feds, Tom Mullen takes matters into his hand, utilising the media to turn the tables on the kidnappers. Using innovative camera work, Howard makes a real effort to offer each character's perspective in every scene wherever possible while simultaneously involving the viewer in the action. Although this practice contributes much to the film's realism, the less than subtle performances of the cast disrupt the audience's ability to relate to the characters or engage with the film as a whole. Plus: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes special, trailer. (Touchstone/Buena Vista)