Secuestro Express follows the kidnapping of a young upper-class couple in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Stopping at a drugstore on their way home from a night out, Carla (Mia Maestro) and Martin (Jean Paul Leroux) are snatched by three thugs -"romantic" Trece (Carlos Molina), not so lovable daddy Budu (Pedro Perez) and somewhat amoral Niga (Carlos Madera). The couple are stuffed into the back of their own SUV and Carla's father Sergio (Ruben Blades) soon receives a phone call demanding an accessible sum for ransom. As the trio's plan unfolds, and inevitably unravels, director Jonathan Jakubowicz takes the audience deep into the squalid reality of entrepreneurial kidnapping in an impoverished Latin America.
Review by Joel Meares:
Secuestro Express is a story that warranted being told. It brings with its narrative the gravitas of an entire continent's devastating epidemics: poverty, drugs and crime. It is doubly frustrating then that Jakubowicz's film deals so frivolously and exploitatively with the world it didactically criticises. On the one hand, Secuestro Express condemns the conspicuous wealth of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. Writer/director Jakubowicz affords his kidnappers the opportunity to muse on their actions as egalitarian, and offers the audience something confronting to consider, that violence might be politically just. More often, however, the filmmakers are content to let such considerations remain the background to a film that exploits its faux philosophy as a fast track to extreme bouts of titillating obscenity, homophobic humour and sadistic scenes of female intimidation. It is in a word, ugly.
From beginning to end, Secuestro Express proves an obnoxious mess determinedly employing the kidnapping conceit it laments to stimulate in its audience popcorn movie sentiments. Everything seems contrived. Carla forms a romantic bond with a kidnapper who happily held a gun to her face and later leaves her to the mercy of a man he knows as a rapist (a title card when we first meet him also tells us this). This latter scene, with the rapist, particularly embellishes its character's sadism. Carla is tormented to the point where it becomes unbearable to watch. The director presses on, from a multitude of filmically clever angles, not because the point is yet to be made, but because he wants us to squirm. It was disquieting to think that this level of misogyny was being employed to generate a kind of B-movie suspense.
Jakubowicz is clearly a talented filmmaker but his cinematic trickery only compounds the insult of his exploitation. When Carla is (once again) held at gunpoint, an accelerated and ascending angle draws attention not to her plight but to itself. The decision to film on grainy video is also self-conscious. To be fair, Secuestro Express has some good performances, Mia Maestro as Carla is quite brilliant, and Jakubowicz is adept at forcing suspense. However, diving-camera first into a city and an issue so ripe with possibility and despair, all we see in Secuestro Express is the ugliness of a film focused on itself, only occasionally, tangentially and self-importantly glancing its surroundings.
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SECUESTRO EXPRESS (MA)
CAST: Rubén Blades, Carlos Julio Molina, Pedro Perez, Carlos Madera, Jean Paul Leroux
PRODUCER: Sandra Condito, Jonathan Jakubowicz, Salomon Jakubowicz
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Jakubowicz
SCRIPT: Jonathan Jakubowicz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Chalker
EDITOR: Ethan Maniquis
MUSIC: Angelo Milli
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Art direction - Andrés Zawisza
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 24, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
VIDEO RELEASE: November 1, 2006