They want $2m - chump change to a NY entrepreneur like Tom Mullen (Gibson) when his son's life is on the line. He goes to the FBI, and they advise him to pay. But the drop-off is botched, and Mullen's not so sure he can trust these kidnappers to hold up their end of the bargain. To pay or not to pay? Such dilemmas make for edgy suspense, if not equitable marital relations, and Mullen's audacious solution here only ups the ante, leaving wife Russo hoarse with rage and horror. Unless you're familiar with an obscure 1955 Glenn Ford movie, also called Ransom, you'll likely be quite taken aback too. Yet this twist is as nothing compared to the truly mind-boggling claim in the credits, that this tough, penetrating thriller was directed by Ron Howard. In popular, sentimental movies from Splash through Apollo 13, Howard has proved himself a reliably competent but unerringly fatuous craftsman. How he's grown up overnight! Much of the credit must go to screenwriter Richard Price, who brings an insidious, vitriolic class-consciousness to bear. The film doesn't just trade on Gibson's dangerous, lunatic machismo, it unearths a colder, more callous and more complex narcissism. His nemesis knows him so much better than his wife. Howard pushes and probes this rich tension with expert casting, restless camerawork and a fractured editing style. The result is overwrought, but riveting.