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R: ARCHIVE, S: REVIEWS, D: 11/07/1996,


It's probably time to forget the past, but Ron Howard really does make movies the way you'd expect Richie Cunningham to -- fairly competent, terribly mainstream, and more than a tad dull. Ransom is no exception. Mel Gibson stars as an airline owner trying to get his son back from a band of kidnappers. We know Gibson really loves his son because he shamelessly flaunts the kid in his airline's family value-themed commercials. Gibson realizes he's made more than a few enemies paying off union bosses, and he suspects the kidnappers are in it for something other than money. Refusing to offer up the ransom, he instead places the $2 million as a bounty on the kidnappers.

The foolish plan works. It turns a film you're sure you've seen before (and maybe you have; this is a remake of Alex Segal's 1956 thriller) into something a bit different and sends the kidnappers (including Lili Taylor and former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg as accessories to the crime) into a paranoid frenzy. It also allows Gibson's wife, Rene Russo (as accessory to the slime), to cry and shriek in a big but useless role. Gary Sinise also has a major role, and though we can't tell you what it is, he sure ain't Ward Cleaver. At the Cheri, the Fresh Pond, and the Circle and in the suburbs.

-- Mark Bazer