Stars: Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Delroy Lindo, Lili Taylor. Written by Richard Price, Alexander Ignon. Directed by Ron Howard. Rated R for adult themes, violence, profanity.

When a wealthy businessman's (Mel Gibson) son is kidnapped, he offers the ransom money to the public as a bounty on the kidnapper's head. His wife (Rene Russo), doesn't agree with this strategy, but reluctantly agrees to support her husband. Up until that point, the kidnappers (Gary Sinise, Lili Taylor, others) were pretty sure of their chances of getting paid because the businessman had already been involved in a scandal where payoffs were par for the course. Whether or not the bounty strategy works is the crux of the film, and is sure to be discussed around water coolers for weeks to come.

Ron Howard has always been a competent director, but style and flair are two qualities he possesses in meager amounts. One can only imagine what this film would have been like under the guidance of a director such as Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs"). Still, "RANSOM" is an engaging thriller which is buoyed by strong performances from heroes and villains alike. Gary Sinise, as the head kidnapper, deserves special notice.

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