Jimmy Shaker (Gary Sinise) has a valid reason for kidnapping Tom (Mel Gibson) and Kate (Rene Russo) Mullen's son if you ask me. Jimmy is a cop who knows that Tom, head of a large airline corporation, paid off a guy (Dan Hedaya) to avoid a strike. When the guy gets caught and sent to jail, Tom roams around free denying everything and pays his high-priced lawyers to make the whole fiasco seem like the union's fault.
Jimmy is sick of seeing rich guys like Mullen play outside the rules and win, so he gives Tom a taste of his own medicine by kidnapping Tom's son and making him cough up a few million dollars. However, like most rich people, Tom would rather see his son cut into pieces and fed to Hudson River carp than have any of his money end up in the hands of some union-loving liberal. Betting that no matter what he does, his son will be killed, Tom refuses to pay the ransom.
Director Ron Howard makes a huge mistake by assuming the audience will side with Tom and Kate in this little conflict. To do this, one must assume two things: 1) Tom is caring executive looking to solve a labor dispute painlessly, rather than a greedy corporate union-buster and 2) Tom refuses to pay the ransom due to strong personal ethics, rather than the prospect of missing a Lexus payment. Unfortunately, neither is true.
To like Tom is to assume that the union's demands were exorbitant, which is doubtful. What's a hell of a lot more likely that Tom was paying illegal aliens thirty cents a day to superglue his airplanes' wings back on and when they asked for a three-cent raise he called them "savages" and told them to go eat their children. Rather than just paying Shaker and getting things over with, Tom gambles with his son's life and his family's sanity. The only reason we know things will work out for Tom in the end is because we know this project was sanctioned by Hollywood executives, who consider greedheads like Tom to be righteous heroes and can empathize with the real-life pain that results from missing a Lexus payment.
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