This is a movie about kidnapping first and foremost, but it is also a strong commentary on the ongoing struggle between the have and the have nots.
The story kicks off quickly when a rich young couple is kidnapped without warning outside of a drug store. The kidnapping scene is done very well. If there is any excuse for using DV it is the type of hand held quick shots the director gets while the couple is being taken. I've never been kidnapped but I feel like this is what it would be like. No overly clever threats just quick and decisive action. Shut up, don't look at me, and a pistol whip to the mouth the second i think you're looking. The three kidnappers all have distinct personalities that are at times contradictory to each other and with the whole act of kidnapping. This adds to the realism in a huge way. One of the assailants is particularly protective of the girl which becomes a theme throughout the film.
As the movie rolls onward the use of DV becomes less noticeable and actually begins to seem appropriate because we do tend to think of video as being "real". The cinematographer should be commended on his excellent use of color. Almost every scene is alive with brilliant hues that contrast wildly. I am not sure if this was done in some way to evoke the thematic idea that the rich and the poor live so close yet are so different, or if it is simply eye candy to savor. Either way it accomplishes that goal.
This is a film full of sudden plot twists and because it is a continuous story told in a 1 to 1 step with reality it seems we are literally experiencing every moment of the ordeal with the characters. Violence erupts from nowhere and you get the feeling that this is a lawless place where the kidnappers really are in control. By the end of the movie I would certainly think twice before exploring south America without a desert eagle and suitcase of cash.
Overall this a gritty movie that paints a realistic portrait about kidnapping in south America. there is nothing glamorous or pretty about it and thats what works so well here particularly in concert with the grainy DV look. Maybe the only aspect of the movie I had a problem with wasn't even so much individual to the movie itself. It is more the idea that the kidnappings are justified simply because the wealthy are wealthy. This movie is so well designed as documentary on a kidnapping that it doesn't leave time for us to really see the living conditions of the kidnappers. Therefore it is very difficult for me to make the logic jump that If I was in their position I would probably become a kidnapper as well. There will always be the haves and the have nots, but I would venture to say that violence, greed, and sadism are independent of financial status. They are simply the consequence of being human and we have to live with that as best as possible.
"Secuestro Express" is a neat little twisty thriller in the exaggerated style of gritty British crime dramas like "Layer Cake," with a pointed political and social overlay.
Using swooping, in-your-face close-up cameras, limited narration and dossier-style on screen character and time descriptors, writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz, in his full-length fiction debut, captures a docudrama feel to make the kidnapping of a young, lighter-skinned couple by a motley group of "nigros" (darker-skinned) thugs, with a variety of psychological and financial motives for doing this "work", a commentary on class in Latin America, specifically in Caracas, Venezuela.
The individuality of all the characters, including the criminals, adds to the explosive unpredictability as stereotypes of Latin American culture are ironically skewered, including oligarchies, macho men, religion and sensuality, as each person uses political and class rhetoric to justify greed, selfishness and condescension on all sides.
Drugs are caustically shown to have pervasively corrupted and enthralled all levels of the society through a harrowing picaresque exploration of "the ghetto" (as the subtitles translated the geography).
The acting is excellent, particularly Mía Maestro, of TV's "Alias," who goes through an entire spectrum of emotions. Jean Paul Leroux as her boyfriend "Martin" is very good at shifting gears as our sympathies shift around him.
The song selection felt very atmospheric and the soundtrack kept the tension ratcheted up.
In a night pregnant with a strange mix of tension and dizzy abandon, lovers Carla and Martin prowl clubs before drunkenly wandering back to his car. While he comes across as crass nouveau riche, she appears more liberal. Their conspicuous affluence, however, makes them ideal targets for kidnappers, and the trio of Trece, Budu and Niga gets a bead on them and promptly sweeps them up at gunpoint. The kidnappers then demand $20,000 to be delivered in two hours. Carla phones her rich father Sergio to procure the money, but chaos soon ensues. A botched ATM robbery is followed by a stopover at the palatial estate of a gay drug dealer.