The Living Dead

A popcorn thriller with good performances and an interesting storyline...though a tad long.

Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) is a loner. An intelligence specialist who has lived the better half of his life abroad on various high-risk missions, trying to fulfill the aims of his employers through hostage negotiation. As a high-ranking field agent for a K&R (Kidnap and Ransom) agency, his services are called upon after the disappearance of Peter Bowman (David Morse), who came to Latin America as an engineer for an oil company.

However, the powers that be turn a deaf ear to Bowman's disappearance due to a minor financial glitch, and Alice Bowman (Meg Ryan) struggles against all odds to get her husband back by cutting through the abominable mess of dollar diplomacy and international terrorism. As the negotiations begin, it becomes an emotional struggle for Alice who looks toward Thorne as her only link to sanity.

Based upon an article written for Vanity Fair in 1998 titled "Adventures in the Ransom Trade", the movie is a stylized view of modern K&R agencies, that were founded after the Cold War to combat terrorist groups. These paramilitary organizations often used ransom money as a vital means of supplementing their income and expenditure. The movie itself establishes this fact and is given an authentic look out of Latin America.

The director has definitely done the topic justice through infinite research and any inaccuracy is almost implausible. Unfortunately, the film is lethargic and several sequences occur in isolation, distracting the audience from the primary focus of the film.

One thing that makes the film memorable is the evocative performances. Meg Ryan portrays the stubborn corporate wife with minimal theatrics, while Russell Crowe's role as the dubious good guy (Thorne) could send him rocketing back to the Oscars next year for another round. The movie is a great eye-opener from Warner Brothers and promises to enthrall you with stimulating performances and starry credits.

This article was first published on 09 May 2001.