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November 23, 2011

Movie Review: Kidnapped (2011, MPI/IFC Midnight)

Directed by Miguel Angel Vivas

Reviewed by Greg Goodsell

The pre-credits sequence is horrifying and relentless. An upper middle-class Spanish man is seen with a bag over his head, his hands tied behind his back as he struggles for air. In one continuous take, he manages to get to his feet, and begins walking around what is presumed to be an outdoor rest area by the side of a highway. Breathing loudly, he manages to stumble to the road where he is narrowly missed by a speeding vehicle – and is then promptly struck down by another. Our hero's predicament (Fernando Cayo) only gets worse from there – in a sequence that has absolutely no bearing on the film that is about to follow!

Buy Kidnapped on DVD

While receiving heavy accolades, it must be noted that director Miguel Angel Vivas' Kidnapped doesn't play fair. This could be a good thing – as everyone seems to appreciate a gloves-off approach to their horror and suspense films – but the lean narrative cheats it audience from time to time, something that is anathema when building a story that depends largely and logic and realism.

Simplicity itself, Kidnapped details the plight of a bourgeois family of three – father, mother and daughter whose lovely new mansion is overrun by three masked kidnappers who demand ransom. While the kingpin’s leader takes the father to withdraw money from ATMs, his two henchmen stay behind with mom and sis. As expected, there are weak links in the chain and the sympathetic characters must play deadly games in order to survive. Things go from bad to worse, with mother and daughter outstripping Marilyn Chambers from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for nonstop screaming and wailing, and the once lovely home becomes bathed in blood. Kidnapped keeps the viewer firmly in its grimy grasp for the length of its brief running time, but is the problem with many films of this type, many things occur that make no sense whatsoever in order to keep things going at a fever pitch.

Having shared Kidnapped's chief spoiler, i.e. the opening sequence having no relevance whatsoever for the story about to follow (is it a bad dream of the father who prophetically sees the attack made upon his family?), this writer will let a few tidbits out of the bag that those who want to watch the film – and it is worth watching, in a junky, amusement park sort of way – should skip the next few paragraphs. One character meets his demise that would be literally impossible to keep secret, no matter how isolated the mansion is, the whole horrible situation would speedily come to an irrevocable close. In another cheat, the audience is led to believe that one character was killed earlier on turns up alive later on.

Some elements are a bit predictable. An unwanted bit of home d├ęcor plays a very important part in the story towards the end, and a threateningly dark picture window seen in one shot as the husband and wife bicker in the foreground foreshadows the home invasion ordeal to follow. It's as if the film followed playwright Anton Chekhov’s rule about introducing firearms onstage, “if you are going to have a window loom large in one shot, be sure to have the assailants come smashing through it!”

All films require a willing suspension of disbelief – why don't the characters in The Blair Witch Project (1999) just follow the river out of the woods instead of running around in circles, after all? The inconsistencies in Kidnapped, however become very apparent in the quieter moments when the characters are given a chance to catch their breath.

That being said, Kidnapped is the ideal film to see with a bunch of friends who like to shout directions to the characters onscreen. There's gore aplenty and many scenes that get the adrenaline pumpin'. And that, in essence is what Kidnapped is all about.

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