By Judy Berman
When someone does you wrong, how do you handle it? Do you feel powerless?
There’s no need to. You can turn the tables on the bad guy.
There should be an app for that. One you can download – off the Internet or from your local library.
Take a page out of O. Henry’s short story, “The Ransom of Red Chief,” written in 1910. Two kidnappers’ scheme to rip someone off backfires. But getting found out was not the worst of it.
The kidnappers get more than they bargained for when they grab a rich man’s son and hold him for ransom. It soon becomes clear to the men who the real hostages are. Before long, they’re only too willing to pay off the boy’s father so he’ll take his son back.
A twist of that theme has endless possibilities. Here’s how it played out in the movie, “Ruthless People” (1986). Sam Stone (Danny Devito) plans to kill his wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), so he can inherit her fortune. His plot hits a snag when a kidnapper calls and demands Sam pay a ransom of $500,000 to get his wife back … or she’ll be killed if Sam doesn’t pay up.
The conniving, little fiend is delighted, thinking someone else is going to do his dirty work for him, and he’ll soon have Barbara’s fortune.
The kidnappers, Ken (Judge Reinhold) and Sandy Kessler (Helen Slater), hatched this scheme to get back at the Sam for profiting from a fashion design he stole from Sandy.
Too late, Ken realizes he has double-trouble: Barbara is a terror that he’d be only too eager to return and her husband doesn’t want her back. Ken drops his demand to $50,000 after Sam fails to show for the ransom drop.
Unaware of the stalled negotiations, Barbara has been working out in her kidnappers’ cellar. She’s dropped about 20 pounds. Sandy notices, brings out designer clothes that would make any fashionista ecstatic and suggests Barbara try them on. They are Sandy’s creations.
Sandy confides to Barbara that she was kidnapped to get back at Sam and her for stealing her creative ideas and profiting from it. Barbara tells Sandy she didn’t know Sam had stolen Sandy’s designs.
Then, Barbara asks when she’s going to be released. Sandy reluctantly tells her that Sam will not pay the ransom, even though they just dropped their demand to $10,000.
Barbara’s dumbfounded. She’s worth a fortune. She cries, “I’m being marked down? I’ve been kidnapped by Kmart!”
Sam’s girlfriend has get-rich plans of her own. Carol (Anita Morris), a gold-digger, conspires with her dimwitted boyfriend, Earl Mott (Bill Pullman), to blackmail Sam. She wants Earl to videotape Sam when he disposes his wife’s body.
Carol doesn’t bother to view the tape first and mails it to police. Instead, the videotaped evidence will show another “crime” in progress. Carol convinces police to investigate Barbara’s disappearance. When they’re snooping around, Sam realizes he better bring Barbara back alive … or, he could be charged with her murder.
Now, Sam is only too eager to pay the ransom. There’s just one little glitch. Barbara’s cooked up a plan with the kidnappers to fleece Sam out of more than $2 million.
Sam’s outraged, but he agrees to meet Ken. When Carol learns of the drop, she tells Earl to go steal the ransom money.
They’re not clowning around as they wrestle with ransom payoff.What follows is Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will. Cops lay in wait for Ken to show up. The slow-speed chase that follows and the final outcome are hysterical. Revenge is sweet.
It’s an ending that O. Henry would approve of. Perhaps, it will provide inspiration to you should you want to even the score.
Movie Trailer – Ruthless People – Barbara attempts to escape her kidnappers
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Video: Ruthless People – “I’ve been kidnapped by Kmart”
Video – Music – Ruthless People sung by Mick Jagger