Thriller R Running time: 2:01
IMDB rating: 6.6 Aspect: Wide; Languages: English, French; Subtitles: Spanish; Audio: DD 5.1
When it comes to ramping up to vein-bursting levels of tormented anxiety, Mel Gibson has a kind of mainstream intensity that makes him perfect for his heroic-father role in director Ron Howard's child-kidnapping thriller. When you think of Ransom, you automatically think of the scene in which Mel reaches his boiling point and yells, "Give me back my son!" to the kidnapper on the other end of several torturous phone calls. Trapped in the middle of any parent's nightmare, Mel plays a self-made airline mogul whose son (played by Brawley Nolte, son of actor Nick Nolte) is abducted by a close-knit group of uptight kidnappers. But when a king's ransom is demanded for the child's safe return, Mel turns the tables and offers the ransom as reward money for anyone who provides information leading to the kidnappers' arrest. Thus begins a nerve-racking battle of wills and a test of the father's conviction to carry out a plan that could cost his son's life. The boy's mother (played by Rene Russo, reunited with Gibson after Lethal Weapon 3) disapproves of her husband's life-threatening gamble, and a seasoned FBI negotiator (Delroy Lindo) is equally fearful of disaster as the search for the kidnappers intensifies. Through it all, Howard maintains a level of nail-biting tension to match Gibson's desperate ploy, and the plot twists are just clever enough to cancel out the overwrought performances and manipulative screenplay. Ransom may not be as sophisticated as its glossy production design would suggest, but it's a thriller with above-average intelligence and an emotion-driven plot that couldn't be more urgent. Adding to the intensity is a superior supporting cast including Gary Sinise, Lili Taylor, and Liev Schreiber as the kidnappers, who demonstrate that even the tightest scheme can unravel under unexpected stress. Remade from a 1956 film starring Glenn Ford, Ransom is diluted by a few too many subplots, but as a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, it's a slick and satisfying example of Hollywood entertainment.