Kidnapped aka Secuestrados (2011)
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
I've always thought the home invasion film is one of the most terrifying genres in all of horror. I mean the reason why is pretty obvious. It realistically could happen. That's terrifying as shit right?
Lots of movies have been made about this and I've seen a lot of them. Them (aka Ils), The Strangers, Inside and Funny Games are all the notables. When I first saw Michael Haneke's Funny Games, I'll admit I was blown away. Vicious violence and Haneke's attempt to chide us and ask if we were desensitized to it all was revolutionary. Now we're given yet another home invasion film that's just as nihilistic and unrelenting as Funny Games and one has to ask why?
Vivas's Kidnapped is a Spanish import that puts the audience uncomfortably close to a home invasion playing in real time and let's us squirm as a family is robbed, tortured and terrorized. It's pure cinematic wickedness as Vivas employs only a few cuts/edits and instead hovers the camera around the action as it plays. It's a damn eerie and effective technique, one where audience has nowhere to escape but feel as terrorized as this family.
But the problem with Kidnapped lies not in it's dread or viciousness but in it's characters. Our family are ridiculously badly drawn: Dad is inept, Mom is too houswifey and daughter seems like a spoiled brat. The bad guy's don't fair either. I'm going to use a Miami Heat analogy that may or may not work to explain their dumb-ititude.
In the end Kidnapped will shock the shit out of you (that ending will stick in your mind like a splinter) but says nothing of why violence fascinates us. Kidnapped is awesome style, but little substance and stands on the lower ladder of the home invasion genre. It's also why I disliked The Strangers so much. I need more than "Because you were home".
Three hooded Eastern-European criminals burst into a home in a Madrid gated community, holding the family hostage in its own home, and forcing the father to empty his credit cards.
Let's get that pesky plot out of the way. Innocent Spanish family has just moved into an awesome new home and they display all those qualities of rich families I despise. Dad is mega rich, Mom is all into house wife duties and the daughter wants to party. When 3 ski masked criminals invade their home, they are abused and fucked up. Dad is forced to get PINs for all his credit cards and driven out into the city and take out the max from ATMs. Meanwhile, mom and daughter are guarded into a sense of home invasion normalcy.
Later, unexpected visitors ring that damn doorbell and get caught in the mix. It's up to our fearless duo to make sure their master heist goes according to plan. The camera work here is utterly flawless. The shots hover like a guardian angel, we peek in from scene to scene with no cutting whatsoever. Violence becomes almost dreamlike. In one scene where our girls try to escape, the terror is amplified by a Vivas technique where he goes split screen and we see the action take place simultaneously. It's damn effective revealing the horror of both scenes. My eye wandered to the criminals as I knew I'd see mega fuckedupness on their end.
It's this style that is suspenseful and draws an eager viewer into this hellish world that's taking place. Kidnapped is paced so well that it's a testament to the actors and actresses to get all their dialogue, motions, etc all accomplished without any cuts. You really do admire this type of cinema as its exhilarating to watch.
Let me go into that Miami Heat analogy. When one goes into home invasion as a criminal activity you'd think the 3 of them would be on the same page. Let's break them down with their Heat counterparts.
Master Chief Criminal: Wade
We have a leader who is the one takes the dad around town maxing out his cards. You'd think this guy could be able to handle his crew but you'd be wrong. He's doesn't have the pulse of his team and seems to be a useless kind of leader. But you get the feeling he's gonna put a dagger through your heart and come up with a Wade like game winning bucket.
Petty Criminal Crazy Guy: LeBron
OK this guy is kinda nuts. He goes all crazy and almost goes all Lebron in the 4th quarter. The entire heist was in jeopardy because of his actions. He goes all murdery on a inspector and decides to "SVU" the daughter. He's totally the muscle of the crew but definitely a total choker...you know like Lebron.
Petty Criminal Morality Guy: Bosh
This guy has a total change of heart and feels bad that Lebron guy is totally fucking up everybody and is out of control. Like Bosh, he's the 3rd fiddle and he brings absolutely nothing to the game. If you're recruiting for a home invasion, you need soldiers willing to do anything to get the job done. They brought Morality Bosh Guy. And he's a fuckin pussy.
So there you have it. Your Big Three master criminals. The master plan is completely flawed. How much can one really max out from an ATM machine to get a big score? Not a helluva alot I would imagine. Home invasions are bash and dash. You get in, you loot and you get out. But these guys are having a fuckin sleepover. Plus their team isn't as solid as one might think with a bad captain, a crazy guy and a wuss.
If it wasn't for Wade guy saving the day, they'd have lost to the damn Cleveland Cavaliers family. In every home invasion movie, the family always tries to fight back or escape. And sure our family does here. I'd take the argument that summoning up courage is hard to do when you fear for your life. But one has to make sure when they are fighting back, you actually defeat your enemy. I like to think in a way that the family was only up by 2 pts and thought they had won the game. That's when Amazing happens.
Kidnapped's characters are just not at all interesting and the logic is a little off. The style as I said was spectacular but the substance of what this nihilistic journey was for is lacking. In Funny Games, Haneke broke the 4th wall and talked to the audience and asked us what WE WOULD DO. It seemed that Haneke wanted to provoke the audience and ask why we want to see the violence and when he REWINDS the action, we're even more thrilled. There is a message within Funny Games with its clean cut villains and the quagmire they give the family.
In Kidnapped, it's all glitz and glamour. Oh we see our big 3 wreak havoc, we see the dazzling dunks of gore and splatter and a game winning shot and I enjoyed seeing this mayhem. But it didn't really give me anything to talk about after seeing it. I didn't come away with something that might be thought provoking or worthwhile.
Kidnapped gives you a taste of home invasion genre, the life and death struggle but doesn't have a conceptual theme of what we just saw. It's nihilism for nihilism's sake and sometimes that's all you get.
Daughter has serious cleavage issues
If I told you more, the movie might be spoiled
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
I know Kidnapped is high on many Top 10 lists and it will get an honorable mention from me in mine. I expect more from my home invasion and I got what I expected. European imports usually have both style and substance. I'm kinda shocked Kidnapped didn't have the latter.
Check out the trailer.