Kidnapping Inc. – 2024 Sundance Film Festival

Dwight Brown, Film Critic for and NNPA News Wire | 2/1/2024, 2:26 p.m.
Any movie that starts with a man being kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of a car knows how to …

Any movie that starts with a man being kidnapped and thrown in the trunk of a car knows how to tempt crime/thriller genre fans, from the jump.

However, director Bruno Mourral, who has a background in commercials, has more things in mind. The act/com/dra script he cowrote, with Jasmuel Andri and Gilbert Mirambeau Jr., turns a snatch and go premise into a farcical tale that includes insights on Haiti’s racism, classism, corruption and violence. Much of the hit-and-run commentary is about how color is used to define who should be rich and who should be poor.

The proceedings have the madcap energy of the 1988 act/com/cri film Midnight Run. Under the Caribbean sun, on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, no one is safe from the brutal leanings of the very dumb Doc (Jasmuel Andri) and much dumber Zoe (Rolapthon Mercure). They’re harebrained kidnappers. They’re being paid to abduct the son of a wealthy presidential candidate (Ashley Laraque), and as the story unfolds, you never know who is zooming who. Only that duplicity runs rampant.

Like a telenovela, high on melodrama and soft on credibility, many people are connected to the central characters. The victim’s wife (Anabel Lopez) and her hunky side piece (Marcus Boereau) scheme. One of the best scenes, which goes on too long and is a prime example of the movie’s excess, involves the guys carjacking a hoity-toity couple on their way to the airport so the pregnant wife (Gessica Geneus) can have her baby in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and not in Haiti’s squalor. That’s if her meek husband (Patrick Joseph) can act manly enough to stand up to Doc and Roe.

Affairs, deception, betrayals, greed and envy abound. Juicy stuff. But those devices in overabundance, like the deluge of supporting characters and overpacked scenes, wears out any welcome. Like guests who stay too long at a party.

Mourral has a clever, wicked sense of humor, good taste in physical comedy and films action sequences like a pro. Hysteria reigns even when the movie stumbles. He also displays a gift for composition, staging, creating beautiful footage (cinematographer Martin Levent) and chaos.

Many viewers will have a laundry list of wishes: That the editing (Mourral and Arthur Tarnowski) was tighter, since short punchy scenes work best for this genre mix. That the filmmakers had worked the moment, gaffe, fright or gimmick and moved on. That the 1h 43m length had been scissored to 93 minutes. Or that the gory images weren’t so graphic. Those fixes would help the film appeal to and reach a wider audience. The costumes (Paule Magenot) and hectic music (Olivier Alary) avoid any real criticism. They’re good.

Andri and Mercure are funny in a Laurel/Hardy, Abbott/Costello, Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan way. Can’t blame them for the film’s failures. The rest of the cast seems comfortable performing in spoofs and notably Geneus, as the outraged wife, is ridiculously animated. Easy to be aghast by her snooty antics, yet love them at the same time.

Smart American producers would buy the film’s rights and turn it into a vehicle for comics like Kevin Hart and Lavel Crawford or comic stoner actors like Zach Galifianakis and Seth Rogan. With class warfare, racial conflict and corruption raging in so many countries, any producer in the world could create a successful remake.

This outrageous farce had greater potential than what is currently realized on screen. Re-edited, dubbed and minus the fixable mistakes, Kidnapped Inc. could charm nighttime Netflix audiences and make them laugh long after midnight.

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