New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.49: RANSOM – When Mel Still Had His Marbles…

Please welcome the newest member of The Sexy Armpit, Nick “N.J” Holden! In his first contribution, a look back at the 1996 film Ransom prompts Nick to give Mel a second chance. Check out Nick’s profile which is linked on the right sidebar!

It’s easy to dismiss a person by what is printed and said, even if that person was, at one point or another, decent. For an example, Chris Benoit was regarded as one of the finest technical wrestlers to have ever graced a mat, but after the tragedy with him and his ill-fated family, all of his achievements have been forgotten, almost as if they have never existed. To look at Mel Gibson now, after all the tabloids and rumors, one would see him as an out of his mind, racist, misogynistic narcissist with way too much money and too much ego. But at some point, Mel, before he blew a fuse, visited the Garden State (briefly) in the caper film Ransom, and while it didn’t reinvent the wheel or increase NJ’s tourist trade (at least not to my knowledge), it’s nice to look back on the Garden State before it was forever changed by some guy named Tony Soprano.

Tom Mullen (Gibson) is a self-made millionaire airline owner who finds himself out of his depth when his son Sean (Brawny Nolte, Nick’s son) is kidnapped and held for ransom. Now, the rational thing to do would be to pay the captors (which include a pre-Sex and the City Evan Handler) the money and be done with it. It should also be noted that, through a subplot, Tom was investigated by the FBI for possibly paying off a mob guy to keep his airline going. But after a disastrous turn of events in Jersey (where the ransom was supposed to be paid – holla Fair Lawn!), Tom turns the tables on the captors and uses the ransom as a bounty that he places on the captors, hoping that they will crumble under the pressure and turn on one another. In doing so, Tom not only draws scorn from his wife (Rene Russo) and the FBI agent (Delroy Lindo) on the case, but also become a pariah in the media for such a risky tactic. From then on, the suspense builds as both Tom and the captors begin to lose patience with one another, building in a climax that puts both Tom and captors on a collision course. Not necessarily with each other, but a course that is sure to spell doom for some.

Ransom 01

The movie, directed by Ron Howard, does a great job with the cast. Especially good is Mel, who is kept at a feverish pace. In his eyes, you can see the hopelessness and desperation, but also a man who is not afraid to cross the line to save his son. Also doing fine is Gary Sinse as the ruthless mastermind of the kidnapping who slowly becomes unglued and Lindo as the veteran agent who is confounded by the change of events. Unfortunately, what is seen of Jersey is very little, happening at nighttime at a stone quarry, but is pivotal in the storyline, so I guess we can forgive Howard for setting up an important scene in my home state. It was nice to see Route 4 without traffic for a change.

Ransom is a taut, well-acted cracker of a film that reminds you that Mel was once a good actor. It got him a Golden Globe nomination, so if you want to see Mel Gibson as a hero without a suicide fixation or dressed in a leather suit, give this one a whirl, otherwise you can just smile and blow him.