Film / Ransom

Tom Mullen

Ransom is a 1996 thriller film, directed by Ron Howard. It was intended as a loose remake of "Ransom!" (1956), but ended up barely resembling its predecessor.

Our story features a wealthy couple, Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson) and his wife Kate (Rene Russo). Tom is the proud owner of an airline company and his fortune includes several millions. Shortly after their introduction to the audience, former employee Maris Conner (Lili Taylor) kidnaps their son Sean (Brawley Nolte). The film proceeds to introduce her accomplices, siblings and small-time crooks Clark (Liev Schreiber) and Cubby (Donnie Wahlberg) Barnes, high-tech criminal Miles Roberts (Evan Handler) and mastermind Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise), a corrupt NYPD detective.

Then their demand for ransom is raised, two million dollars. Some character conflict is introduced among the kidnappers. The more ruthless ones want to kill the kid anyway to avoid identification; the others want to release the boy, even risking identification. They agree to disagree until their ransom demands are met.

The story proceeds in the familiar pattern of the original film for a while. Tom gathers the money, but not as ransom. He offers it as bounty for whoever arrests the kidnappers. Not long after, proceeding to double the price.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Shaker mentions how he put his girlfriend Maris's abusive father away.
  • Adult Fear: Having your son kidnapped and threatened to be killed if you cannot provide the money. Then getting a call from the kidnapper, angry that you decided to put the money as reward for his capture, and so he decides to shoot your son in retaliation and you get to hear him do it. And then the kid turns out alive, but the kidnapper comes to your house and forces you to give him the money at gunpoint, and threatens to come back some time in the future and take your son away again and kill him for good in revenge for the massive inconvenience you put him through...
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Maris, the female kidnapper, is the girlfriend of crooked cop Shaker, the mastermind behind the kidnapping.
  • And This Is For...: Subverted when Shaker punches Mullen in revenge for Maris' death.
  • Batman Gambit: The latter half of the kidnapping plot revolves around Tom and Shaker running increasingly bigger gambles against each other, expecting the other party to comply with their demands out of self-interest (Tom wanting his son back and Shaker wanting to get away with it, preferably with the money).
  • Big Applesauce
  • Bound and Gagged: How poor Sean is held.
  • Blood from the Mouth
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Sean, when freed, recognizes the voice of his kidnapper and wets himself in fear. Mullen sees the puddle he's making and gets clued in, then makes a valiant try at bluffing his way through his interaction with Shaker — of course, bluff checks are notoriously spotty when it comes to scenes like these.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mullen fears that his shady past has led to this.
  • Deadpan Snarker / The Alcoholic: The kidnapper played by Evan Handler. "You know, you're not going to get to go to your brother's funeral, either, man."
  • Destination Defenestration: Mullen flings both himself and Shaker through a glass window.
  • Dies Wide Open
  • Dirty Cop: NYPD officer Jimmy Shaker is the mastermind behind the kidnapping and planned to kill Sean all along.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Shaker comes across the kidnappers' hideout, apparently by mistake. He sneaks in, discovers the whole operation, surprises the only thug present and holds him at gunpoint. It looks like the kid is saved! Shaker then... scolds the thug for not protecting the hideout properly. He's a Dirty Cop, in fact the mastermind behind the kidnapping, and he merely tells his conspirator not to be so stupid in the future.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: The cops arrive in one, prompting a quadbike chase.
  • Fake Kill Scare: Shaker calls Mullen and threatens to kill Sean if the latter doesn't gives him the money. Mullen pulls a Papa Wolf rant and threatens to escalate instead (not only the reward but also hiring bounty hunters to find the man wherever he's in the world), for which Shaker retaliates by going to Sean's room, drawing his gun and shooting once with the handset near it. Mullen believes that Shaker has just killed his son and drops his phone in horror.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam:
    • Poor Cubby.
    • Maris also tries to kill Shaker after he turns on the rest of the group. Thankfully his aim turns out to better than hers.
  • Hypocrite: Shaker beats up Tom for calling him human garbage, when his actions in the film pretty much justify that statement. He also does it for hampering his plans and placing a bounty on him.
  • I Have Your Wife: Shaker has Mullen's son, and he wants a ransom. Mullen decides to Take a Third Option.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Jimmy Shaker seems to care for Maris, his girlfriend and fellow kidnapper. When he kills the two expendable remaining kidnappers to make himself out as a hero cop, she shoots him in turn, clearly expecting him to dispose of her as well. He seems a bit shocked at this before he kills her as well with apparent remorse. He's also showing obvious regret at the end when he's telling his travel agent he'll only need one ticket.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Shaker takes things practically, but when he loses control he seeks vengeance, which backfires on him.
    • He shoots a gun while on the phone with Tom in an effort to break him by making him think he's shot his son, but this leaves him with no way to get his ransom now and he must come up with a new plan, which involves him shooting his own people.
    • When he reveals himself to Tom, he accepts an offer of money and escape, but ominously warms that he'll come back for Tom's son one day for having screwed him over. This gets Tom riled up and gives him a beatdown.
  • Leave No Witnesses: The intention has been to kill Sean all along, even though he's blindfolded the entire time. Given that he later identifies the Big Bad just by his voice, this turns out to be Properly Paranoid.
  • Lima Syndrome: One kidnapper, Cubby (Donnie Wahlberg), seems to want to be friends with the boy. As he's the Anti-Villain, he gets a Heel–Face Door-Slam.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer shows Gary Sinise brandishing his gun and badge, but conceals the identity of the kidnapper, to let the audience assume he's playing a detective investigating the case.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A naturally rather livid Mullen gives Shaker a rather nasty pummeling during the chase when the police arrive. Shaker tries to drive him off by kicking him into a running car and shoving him through a glass window, but he still keeps coming after him.
  • Papa Wolf: Deconstructed. Tom will do anything to get his son back. When he realizes that the kidnappers are going to kill Sean anyway even if he gives them the ransom money, he tries to turn the tables on them by turning the ransom into a reward for their capture. Tom maintains his resolve when the mastermind calls him up and Tom threatens to hunt him down if he doesn't get his son back immediately. The kidnapper pretends to shoot Sean and Tom breaks down from his apparent failure. Luckily he still gets Sean back later on, but he played an immensely dangerous gamble that could just as easily have ended this way.
  • Phoney Call: While pretending to call his private aircraft to fly Shaker out of the country, Mullen actually places the call to the FBI so they'll know something is wrong.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Shaker is going to kill Tom's son when he get the ransom, but only because the boy can recognize them. He later loses this and takes beating Tom personally.
  • Shocking Voice Identity Reveal: Sean wets himself when he hears Shaker's voice in his home. This leads to Mullen realizing that he was behind it all.
  • Soft Glass: Very much averted. Mullen looks cut up from going through the glass and Shaker, who went through first, appears mortally wounded.
  • Taking You with Me: During the final chase, Shaker tries to fight off Mullen by shoving him through a glass window. Mullen just grabs hold of Shaker and charges in, injuring them both.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: What Tom turns the ransom into is intended as a shock and surprise move to everyone, but since the gambit was featured heavily in the trailer, the audience knows that we get to this point an hour in (this was the climactic act in the original, and the kidnappers simply panicked and let the kid go free). That said, the trailer does NOT spoil an earlier plot twist: the fact that Gary Sinise's character is involved in the kidnapping. The trailer simply shows him as a police officer.
  • Villainous Rescue: When Mullen goes on television saying he's not going to pay up, Shaker has to rush out to the forest where his gang are already digging a grave for Sean and stop them murdering him. Then when further attempts to get the ransom fail, Shaker murders his fellow conspirators and 'rescues' Sean, hoping to claim the reward money.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The reaction by Kate, the FBI, and most everybody else when Mullen pulls his gambit.