Ransom - * * *

There are a lot of thrilling moments in Ransom, but the film that connects them can’t quite live up to the exiting highs. Mel Gibson stars as Tom Mullen, a billionaire who built an airline from the ground up. He has a loving wife, Kate (Rene Russo), and a young son, Sean (Brawley Nolte). Everything in his life seems to be going smoothly, until one day his son is kidnapped. Tom reluctantly brings in the FBI (who were responsible for a recently painful investigation of his airlines), and, led by Agent Lonnie Hawkins (Delroy Lindo), the team tries to grab command of the situation. When the kidnappers call and demand $2 million (pocket change for Mullen), Tom is eager to pay at first…but then he wonders if the kidnappers will ever let his son go, whether or not he pays. After a botched series of events, he comes to the conclusion that they won’t, and he begins to take other actions, most notably, he goes on television and, rather than offering the money as a reward, he offers it as a bounty for whomever brings in the kidnappers, dead or alive. Director Ron Howard fills Ransom with tense, edge-of-your-seat moments, especially in the last half-hour, but it is the connective tissue that has a problem here. In order to jump from one moment to the next, the film twists logic, makes previously smart characters act dumb, and even pulls a few remarkable coincidences out of its hat. Still, although the film has its hills and valleys, it has several strong performances. Gibson is terrific as the grief-stricken billionaire who out of desperation starts gambling with his kid’s life. Delroy Lindo is good as a kidnapping expert in the FBI, and Gary Sinise adds thrills as a NY cop close to the kidnappers lair. Although it’s a letdown that the film can’t sustain its highs, it does have enough of them that it’s worth watching.

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