Secuestro Express - Review
Review by Jack Foley
SECUESTRO (or kidnap) Express has become the highest-grossing film in Venezuela, beating the likes of Titanic and The Passion of the Christ. It is also the first film from that country to secure an international release.
The reason? It successfully highlights a massive problem in Venezuela where kidnapping and violent street crime has become an epidemic. In Latin America as a whole, there is estimated to be one abduction every hour.
Director Jonathan Jakubowicz was himself kidnapped at the age of 22, during which time he had a gun held to his head for 45 minutes. Several of his friends have also fallen victim to similar attacks.
It is little wonder, therefore, that the ensuing film feels so jaw-droppingly authentic, having been inspired by a deeply traumatic personal experience, as well as research conducted with countless other victims and perpetrators.
The action takes place during one night in Caracas, when a wealthy couple – Martin (Jean Paul Leroux) and Carla (Mia Maestro) – are abducted from their vehicle by three thugs and held to ransom for cash from their wealthy parents.
From that moment, the film feels like a full-on, in your face express train that barely allows the viewer to catch their breath (much like the two hapless victims).
The gang of kidnappers are a motley crew and include a hot-tempered rapist (Pedro Perez) and a more level-headed “middle class romantic” (Carlos Julio Molina), making it anyone’s guess what they are capable of doing should the ransom not be met.
But in a city where corruption exists at almost every level, even the kidnappers face the risks posed by rival street gangs and the odd corrupt police officer.
As unflinching as Jakubowicz’s movie remains throughout, it never oversteps certain boundaries. It’s violent and tense but never exploitative, even though several of the scenes are difficult to watch.
In both its distinct look and authentic feel, Secuestro Express is reminiscent of Fernando Mereilles’ City of God, while some of the editing is borrowed from the likes of Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Tony Scott’s Man On Fire. It’s little wonder, therefore, that Jakubowicz has now been snapped up by Hollywood.
Praise, too, deserves to go to the cast, the majority of whom are unprofessional. It adds an extra layer of authenticity to an already frighteningly realistic film.
The pick of the bunch, however, is Mia Maestro (most recently seen in Poseidon) who gives an extraordinary performance as Carla, perfectly combining the fear and desperation of her situation with a fierce determination to survive.
She adds an extra layer of realism that provides audiences with someone genuinely worth rooting for.
Maestro’s performance is the icing on the cake in what is undoubtedly a bravura piece of film-making that demands to be seen. Once experienced, it is not easily forgotten – but then neither should its message either.
Running time: 90 minutes