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Ransom - why don't we make it a bounty?

By David V Rodriguez
Arts Editor

Tom and Kate Mullen are a happy, wealthy couple living the good life until their son Sean is kidnapped. The ransom is $2 million, which they agree to pay happily, but they soon learn the kidnappers never plan to return Sean alive. In a bold move, Tom (Mel Gibson) goes on television to announce that the $2 million in ransom money now stands as a bounty on the heads of the kidnappers if anything happens to Sean.

Ransom wants desperately to be about this bold move. And it might have looked good on paper, but on the screen it feels like a missing child story, which can't avoid being a little depressing. Out of two hours, a large share is spent crying, hugging, and lip biting, and although director Ron Howard does a good job, never going overboard or becoming too sentimental, it isn't always fun to watch.

FBI Agent Hawkins (Delroy Lindo) is assigned to recover Sean. He's a needed presence because he is the calmest of the bunch, never crying and always avoiding the hugging.

Tom makes the counteroffer without consulting anyone else, and both Kate (Rene Russo) and Agent Hawkins beg him to take it back. Hawkins says he has returned seven out of 10 missing children but would "bet on those who pay the money." Kate doesn't want to anger the kidnappers, and, in fact, several of the kidnappers want to kill the boy for the trouble they have caused them.

Tom's counteroffer creates tension between man and wife, but with faith in her man, Kate says, "He's always landed us on high ground." Not having access to any money (she tried, but Tom told his employees not to give her any), she is forced to give in. Agent Hawkins begs Kate to change Tom's mind, but by this time she has changed her mind.

We know that Ransom really wants to be about the counteroffer because it doesn't need to be as hard as they make it. The problem: Why are paying the money and paying the bounty mutually exclusive? We're told from the beginning that the couple has far more money and could afford to pay many times the amount. Then Tom changes the $2 million from a ransom to a bounty, declaring that the kidnappers will never see a penny. Kate wants to pay the money. They could do both - pay the kidnappers $2 million, telling them a $2 million bounty will be on their heads if Sean is hurt.

But this would be too easy. No tough choices would need to be made. The kidnappers would get the money and leave the country, the Mullens would get Sean, and there's be no reason for the kidnappers to make a last, desperate (but exciting) attempt to get some money out of Tom.