Title: Kidnapped (Secuestrados)

Directed By: Miguel Angel Vivas

Written By: Miguel Ángel Vivas, Javier Gracia

Cast: Guillermo Barrientos, Dritan Biba, Fernando Cayo, Cesar Diaz, Martijn Kuiper, Manuela Vellés, Ana Wagener, Xoel Yanez

Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 5/26/11

Opens: June 17, 2011

Hey Mayor Bloomberg! Governor Cuomo! Get your minds off the budget for a couple of days and consider this. Homeowners and residents in New York need guns, just like in Texas. Yeah, the big argument against abolishing gun laws is that honest citizens may not know how to use the equipment and will only get shot by the bad guys who do, but the way around this is to require 20 hours or so of training at licensed targets. But don’t take my word for it. Check out Miguel Ángel Vivas’s thriller “Kidnapped'” when it opens here in New York on June 17th. There’s nothing in the picture that could not happen in real life, and in fact has happened–the most terrifying case in recent memory involving the Petit family in Cheshire, Connecticut, where two girls were doused with flammable liquid and died with their mother. Could something have been done to prevent this? Sure. If Dr. Petit and his wife had access to guns and knew how to use them, there’s every possibility that the crime could have been stopped in its tracks.

As we watch “Kidnapped,” or “Secuestrados” in its original Spanish title since the action takes place in Madrid’s outskirts, we note several instances in which the victims could have saved themselves from serious injuries and more if they had access to guns–and those pieces could have been planted not only by the bedside but in the secure bathroom and other rooms, just like fire extinguishers. Instead, even when two unfortunate souls had the drop on their victimizers, they either failed to use the guns or missed the target.

The director, his co-writer Javier Gracia, and especially Isa (Manuela Vellés), the eighteen-year-old daughter, know how to ratchet up the tension as the action progresses, using a split screen in one instance to track both the car holding the father with his assailant, and the home with Marta (Ana Wagener), the mother, Isa the daughter, César (Xoel Yáñez), the boyfriend, and the two other criminals. Isa knows how to scream and how to express terror: her eyes are wide, her breaths are short, and she screams like a banshee after watching her mother get beaten by the bandits and she falls under the blows of a rapist.

“Kidnapped,” then, is the story of an invasion of a home by three Albanians who speak perfect Spanish, the criminals wearing ski masks for the most part, which means that they either are not expecting to kill anybody or they want the victims to think that they will be safe after the man of the house, Jaime (Fernando Cayo), goes to an ATM, withdraws from all the family credit cards, then hangs out in his car with the kidnapper until 12.01 a.m. to withdraw even more. At the same time there is some dissension among the assailants, as one tries to stop the other from rape and is horrified when two outsiders are being set up for victimhood.

What’s missing? Guillermo Barrientos, Dritan Biba, and César Díaz in the roles of the three assailants are pretty-much interchangeable once you discount the brief dissension, but even more significant, there is no wit or playful humor in the dialogue. No, the kidnapper’s query, “Do you want to do things the easy way or the difficult way” does not really cut it. To see a really first-class picture of this genre, you’d have to check out Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games,” either the1997,or the 2007 picture which is based on the previous movie’s blueprint. In place of incessant screaming you have actors who come across with incisive dialogue, and what’s more the two assailants are neither interchangeable nor moronic: in fact the two of them in their tennis outfits look like preppies—which is how they gain easy entrance into one lavish home after another.

But “Kidnapped” will do just fine.

Technical Grade: B

Acting Grade: B

Story Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

Unrated. 85 minutes. (C) 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online

Kidnapped Secuestrados Movie Poster
Kidnapped Movie Poster

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