Another stunning performance from Russell Crowe holds together a movie that is otherwise not sure exactly what it wants to be.
Inspired by a magazine article about “K and R” consultants and a real-life hostage negotiation, this is the story of an American executive who is kidnapped and held for ransom. That’s what “K and R” stands for — “kidnap and ransom,” and not, as one might think, “kidnap and rescue.” But the movie makers know that audiences expect to see more than tense bargaining over price. They want some Rambo action, and in this movie, they get it.
The story begins with its hero, Terry Thorne (Crowe) sitting in a conference room giving a dry recital of his most recent success, the official report belied by scenes of what really happened, a shoot-out and perilous rescue by helicopter.
Then we see Alice and Peter Bowman (Meg Ryan and David Morse), a loving but discontented couple living in South America, where Peter is supposed to be overseeing construction of a dam. Alice is frustrated and unhappy, still mourning a miscarriage eight months earlier. Peter is also frustrated, because none of his equipment has arrived as promised, and because he feels that he cannot make Alice happy.
Then Peter is kidnapped, and Terry arrives to handle the negotiations — until it turns out that Peter’s company has not paid its insurance premiums, and Terry’s firm orders him home. Terry leaves, but then returns, out of a sense of honor or because he is drawn to Alice, or both.
The story shifts back and forth from Terry’s attempts to get the kidnappers to agree to a ransom Alice and Peter’s sister can pay to Peter, being held in the mountains. Peter’s scenes are intended to show his response to the deprivation and torture and his efforts to fight back or escape, but they are the weakest in the movie, failing to maintain tension or even sympathy. Meanwhile, Terry learns that he will have to go in commando-style to rescue Peter.
Crowe is magnificent, a reluctant hero out of a Bogart movie, with Bogart’s combination of ideals and complete lack of illusion. Offscreen, Ryan and Crowe had a romance that made headlines, but onscreen, there is not much beyond some meaningful glances and one brief conversation that Crowe makes heartbreaking. Ryan does her best to make Alice smart and tough, but neither she nor Morse as Peter are able to make us care very deeply. Pamela Reed makes a welcome appearance as Peter’s sister and David Caruso is excellent as Terry’s friend and compatriot.
Parents should know that the movie is very violent, with a lot of shooting and explosions and many deaths. Characters use very strong language. One of the bad guys uses drugs, and some of the good guys drink as a response to stress and as a way of bonding.
Families who see this movie should talk about how people evaluate risks and how they decide whom to trust. Why did Terry come back? What will he do next?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Missing” with Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.