Dir: Ron Howard
Star: Mel Gibson, Gary Sinise, Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo

It may be hard to believe now, but back in the days before playing word association with "Mel Gibson" would get you "sugar-tits" or "I'll put you in a fucking rose garden, you cunt", he was actually a film-star, folks. Yeah, it's hard to believe, I know. Here - irony of ironies! - he plays a loving husband and doting father, multimillionaire airline owner Tom Mullen, whose son is kidnapped by a pack led by corrupt NYPD detective, Jimmy Shaker (Sinise), who demands a ransom of $2m for his safe return. Initially, Mullen and his wife (Russo) take the advice of the FBI agent assigned to the case (Lindo), and opt to pay the ransom. However, the drop-off attempt goes badly wrong, and causes Mullen to believe that his son won't be returned, regardless of whether they pay or not. So, he instead opts to go to the press and announce that if the kidnappers do not release their captive, the ransom money will instead be used to fund a bounty on their heads.

If there's one thing worse than characters in a film that are stupid, it's ones who act intelligently for the majority of the movie, who then suddenly develop stupidity at the end, because it's necessary to the plot. Unfortunately, that's what happens with regard to Shaker, who is smart for the bulk of the film, but then appears to have eaten a large helping of Idiocy Krispies in the final act. He puts himself into a far-riskier situation, with an increased chance of being spotted as the culprit, when it isn't necessary. It seems to be done purely so we can get a Mullen-Shaker faceoff, with the father directly taking on the man who threatened his child. It isn't necessary, and devalues what could have been an interesting take on crime, the media and fame. The performances are decent, even if Russo gets little to do as the mother except look tearful. It's the script which is the problem here, lurching from forgiveably contrived to ludicrous, even by Hollywood action standards.

[September 2010]

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