Ransom (1996 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ron Howard
Produced by Brian Grazer
Kip Hagopian
Scott Rudin
Screenplay by Richard Price
Alexander Ignon
Story by Cyril Hume
Richard Maibaum
Starring Mel Gibson
Rene Russo
Gary Sinise
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Piotr Sobociński
Edited by Daniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 8, 1996 (1996-11-08)
Running time
121 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million
Box office $309,492,681

Ransom is a 1996 American crime thriller film written by Richard Price & Alexander Ignon and directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Brawley Nolte, Delroy Lindo, Liev Schreiber, Evan Handler, Donnie Wahlberg, and Lili Taylor. Gibson was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

The original story came from a 1954 episode of The United States Steel Hour titled "Fearful Decision". In 1956, it was adapted by Richard Maibaum and Cyril Hume into the feature film Ransom!, starring Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, and Leslie Nielsen. The film was also influenced by Ed McBain's police procedural novel King's Ransom.

The film received mostly positive reviews, and was a major financial success, becoming the 5th highest-grossing film of 1996 in the United States.


While multi-millionaire Tom Mullen and his wife Kate attend a science fair, their son Sean is kidnapped. Sean is taken to an apartment by Maris, a caterer for the Mullens, along with criminals Clark, Cubby and Miles. Tom and Kate receive an e-mail from the kidnappers demanding $2,000,000. Tom calls the FBI, which begins operating from his New York City penthouse.

Detective Shaker of the NYPD is arresting a perpetrator in a convenience store when Cubby buys some FrankenBerry cereal. Shaker follows Cubby into the building where the kidnappers are residing, sees Sean tied in a bedroom, and holds Cubby at gunpoint, berating him for being so obvious; Shaker is the mastermind behind the kidnapping.

Tom agrees to the FBI's instructions for delivering the ransom. Receiving a phone call from Shaker, who is electronically disguising his voice, Tom follows his instructions. He meets Cubby in a New Jersey quarry. Shaker indicated that Cubby would give Tom an address where Sean could be picked up in exchange for the money, but when Cubby appears ignorant of these instructions and simply demands the cash, Tom refuses to hand it over. The FBI sends a helicopter after Cubby and Cubby opens fire. FBI marksmen kill Cubby before he can reveal Sean's location.

Shaker sets up another ransom drop. Angered that the FBI followed him instead of the money and killed his only lead, Tom insists on taking the money without being tracked. Realizing the first drop was a setup and there is no guarantee that Sean will come back alive, Tom goes on the television news and offers the ransom as a bounty. The only way for the kidnappers to save themselves is to return his son, in which case he will withdraw the bounty and drop all charges.

Despite the pleadings of Kate and FBI Special Agent Lonnie Hawkins, Tom sticks to his plan, believing it is the best chance of having Sean returned. Shaker lures Kate to a meeting where he tells her to pay the ransom or Sean will die. Tom responds by increasing the bounty to $4,000,000. Shaker calls Tom and demands to be paid. Tom replies that Sean must be returned or else the kidnappers will be hunted down. Tom hears Sean's voice screaming for his father. Shaker fires a shot heard over the phone before the call cuts off, leaving Tom and Kate believing their son is dead.

Shaker forms a new plan; he will kill Clark and Miles, pretend to rescue Sean and claim the bounty for himself and Maris. He calls in a possible kidnapping to the NYPD, requesting backup. He then flashes his badge and gun at Clark and Miles, who realize he has betrayed them. Clark tries running Shaker over with his van, but Shaker fatally shoots him. He then kills Miles, making it look as though Miles shot first. Maris, trying to back out of the plan, shoots Shaker in the shoulder. Before she can fire again, Shaker kills her and re-enters the apartment just before a SWAT team charges in, finding a wounded Shaker sitting next to Sean.

Hawkins takes Tom and Kate to the scene of Sean's rescue. Tom thanks Shaker, who is being hospitalized. Hawkins takes Tom to Maris' body, where he recognizes her.

Shaker appears at the Mullen penthouse to receive the reward, claiming he wants to avoid publicity. As Tom writes a check for him, Sean recognizes Shaker's voice. Seeing his son's horrified reaction and hearing Shaker speak the same phrase the kidnapper did, Tom realizes who Shaker is. Tom gives Shaker the check with a false signature, but Shaker realizes that Tom is on to him. Shaker threatens to kill everyone in the house, but Tom convinces him to take him hostage and go to the bank so Tom can wire the money to Shaker's account. En route, Shaker orders Tom to ready his private jet. Tom fakes a call to his pilot, actually calling Hawkins, whom Tom manages to tell covertly that the kidnapper is with him.

Cops converge on Tom and Shaker outside the bank. Shaker opens fire, shooting both officers. Tom lunges at Shaker, grabbing his gun. Tom throws Shaker through a store window and when they emerge, they are surrounded by armed policemen. Shaker draws his back-up revolver from an ankle holster. Tom and Hawkins fire first, killing Shaker. The film closes as Hawkins stops the police from arresting Tom.


Production notes[edit]

During filming, Mel Gibson had appendicitis and had to have an operation.[1][not in citation given]


The movie has a 75% rating from Rotten Tomatoes based on 69 reviews.[2] Critic Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars out of four, saying "Gibson gives an interesting performance, showing a man trying to think his way out of a crisis, and Sinise makes a good foil: Here are two smart men playing a game with deadly stakes."[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

1997 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Won - Top Box Office Film

1997 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards)

1997 Golden Globe Awards

1997 Image Awards

1997 Young Artist Awards

  • Nominated - Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor — Brawley Nolte


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ Ransom Rotten Tomatoes, Retrieved 8/02/10
  3. ^ Ransom Roger Ebert, Retrieved 8/02/10

External links[edit]