Judge Daryl Loomis does not condone the use of plastic bags for anything other than bagging.
They're already in the house.
Executed well, the home invasion movie can be one of the most tense, hardest types of movies to watch out there. The original Straw Dogs and either of Michael Haneke's versions of Funny Games are both great examples of how, when that type of story is combined with expert filmmaking, these can result in both a totally compelling and a totally repugnant viewing experience. Unlike a more traditional horror story, where the villain is something that can be abstracted, these films are often striving for heightened realism and, in horror, realism equates to extreme discomfort. I'll leave the relative merits of subjecting an audience to such things for another discussion, but for now we look at the Spanish entry, Kidnapped, a solid genre film that gets the home invasion scenario exactly right, thus making it really unpleasant to watch.
Facts of the Case
Jaime (Fernando Cayo, The Orphanage) and Marta (Ana Wagener, Biutiful) have just moved into a lovely new home in Madrid with their teenaged daughter Isa (Manuela Vellé, Camino). This new life they had planned is shattered on its very first night, though, when a trio of masked thugs smash through the window. The invaders want all the money in the house, but it's not enough, so they send Jaime with one of the thugs out into town to collect more. If he doesn't do what they say, they've threatened to kill his wife and daughter but, while they're gone, the two left to guard them start to hatch other plans.
Kidnapped is driven by its scenario, not its characters, which has its positives and its negatives. Writer/director Miguel Ángel Vivas (Reflections) doesn't give the audience anything to go on and just drops them into the situation. The main characters are neither sympathetic nor hateable; there are no indications as to why these men have entered the home or, outside of money, what they hoped to achieve; there is basically no story to speak of at all. As much as those deficiencies might indicate failure, though, the film actually works rather well.
Because it's a blank slate with very little story development, Kidnapped manages to steer clear of gimmicks. Sure, the family fights back, but nobody turns out to be massively strong, nobody jumps in to save them at the end, and nobody has some heretofore unknown skill that is perfect for just this situation. Horror has enough of all that, as it stands. Instead, the film goes into mostly realist territory, meaning that those with the best weapons and the most force are the ones who win, while those without are left to suffer punishment. That doesn't make for an especially heartwarming film, but I like the fact that it doesn't pretend that there's much hope for the victims.
Of course, if there's no real story development and no redemption of the characters, it leads to the inevitable question of why somebody would want to watch in the first place. That's more difficult to answer, because there's a lingering feeling when watching any of the films in this realm that all I'm doing is watching wretched things happen to people. If they're token, though, discerning redeemable qualities in characters is utterly pointless and this isn't the kind of movie that abides much pointless activity. Outside of a very brief opening that brings up questions never to be answered, this is a no nonsense story. It gets in and gets out without explanation or excuse. If that means some unpleasant viewing or an irredeemable story, so be it, Kidnapped works. It's filmed without much style, but with a good look, and the performances are excellent across the board. It's mean, violent, and hard to watch; it doesn't set out to do a whole lot more than that, so how can I fault it for not giving me a completely satisfying, pretty picture of a resolution.
From MPI and IFC Films, Kidnapped arrives in a decent package on DVD. The wide image is strong, with a strong, if not exceptional picture. Almost the entirety of the film takes place indoors, so its ability to shine is a little stunted, but it performs fairly well, with solid black levels and realistic flesh tones. The sound is similar, maybe a little better but, like the image transfer, there isn't a whole lot to tax the system. There is decent separation in the front and clear dialog, but very little comes through in the rear channels. That's fine, though, this isn't the kind of movie that needs a big, dynamic soundscape; it's full where it needs to be. Extras are left to a scant making-of piece and a couple of trailers, but technically, it's a fine disc.
Kidnapped is unpleasant entertainment, to be sure, but it's a good film that meets what it sets out to accomplish. Well-acted and very competently filmed, it's a good example of the genre. There's not a lot more here than ninety minutes of rough watching, but it's worth the time if you're willing to endure some mean-spirited violence.
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