“It can’t get any worse,” she thought. Oh but it did, it did.
Held for Ransom is pretty much a culmination of things I hate in movies. The era, the dialogue, the setting, the characters. Dennis Hopper and Debi Mazar are in it. They should be two saving graces, but they’re especially terrible in this. I believed in you, Dennis, and you only let me down.
In fairness, this is probably the first direct-to-video movie I’ve watched for Wicked Wednesday. They’re a different sort of beast to made-for-TV. Not that there is anything wrong with that (though it usually is a mark of quality), but it was ‘distributed’ by Blockbuster Video. What does that even mean? Don’t they technically distribute everything they rent out?
Anyway, from the title alone you can guess the premise, plot and ending. A bunch of spoiled/stupid kids are on the school bus home when they realise they are being kidnapped. They are held for ransom by a couple (Hopper and Mazar) who keep them holed up in a cabin in a swamp.
The parents of the children are forced to scrape together the ransom money. None of the children are to be released until the ransom has been paid for each child. The teens do make their attempts to escape, but they aren’t very bright, so they keep getting caught.
Jesse is the main character. Sort of. She narrates the film occasionally, but she’s not very memorable. That’s mostly because she’s poorly written and actually doesn’t even much screen time. When she kisses a boy at the end, I’m mostly just forced to guess what boy it is because they all look pretty much the same. They have zero chemistry and about three lines together.
The kids eventually get out. Surprise. There’s a tiny little twist at the end where one of the dads ends up being in on the kidnap plot. He tells his daughter that she wasn’t meant to be on the bus. The real target didn’t get on the bus that day because she was with her boyfriend.
While it’s kind of a fun twist, it’s pretty poorly thrown together. And again, I was mostly asking myself who the hell is this guy?
Very little is done in general to make you care about the characters. Probably because there are so many of them. Between the kidnappers, the parents and the teens there’s a pretty big cast. I could understand where a book version would be easier to follow because you could remember names. The background stories given to most people in the film is pretty basic, and thus pretty difficult to remember.
There’s also very little suspense for a thriller. Heck, they don’t even kill anyone off! If you’re going to go down this ‘edgy’ route with a Lois Duncan adaptation – fucking commit!
Ransom was first published in 1966 and was Duncan’s first thriller novel. It’s not one I’ve personally read, but it’s pretty safe to say that this adaptation was probably not what Duncan had in mind when writing this book.
It’s garish, crude, and has a pretty poorly written script. There is no trace of Duncan’s style anywhere on this film. I imagine many of her plotlines were in the movie, but everything felt so rushed (it’s under 90 minutes) I almost couldn’t follow what anyone was talking about. For example, there are two brothers and one apparently has killed someone in a driving accident but was never blamed. This only comes into the movie at the very end and means absolutely nothing!
Give it a miss. Forget about it. Throw it away. Burn it. Close down that last Blockbuster. Whatever.