– Haitian director Bruno Mourral’s first feature is a hyper-kinetic comedy-thriller that follows two hapless anti-heroes in a story that also touches upon political and social issues

Review: Kidnapping Inc.

Rolaphton Mercure and Jasmuel Andri in Kidnapping Inc.

Haitian director Bruno Mourral‘s first feature, Kidnapping Inc., which has just world-premiered in Sundance‘s Midnight section, is a highly kinetic comedy-thriller set in the world’s capital of kidnapping, Port-au-Prince.

When the son of senator and presidential candidate Benjamin Perralt (Ashley Laraque) is abducted, two clumsy gangster buddies, Doc (Jasmuel Andri) and Zoe (Rolaphton Mercure), are assigned the task of delivering him to the initially mysterious boss. But just a few minutes of the film’s running time elapse before they accidentally kill him. Scared and confused, they try to devise increasingly incongruous and hilarious ways to avoid the wrath of the boss, until they run into a man who looks exactly like their victim: Patrick (Patrick Joseph) and his pregnant wife Laura (Gessica Geneus), who are just on their way to the airport: she wants to give birth in the USA so their kid will have American citizenship.

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Meanwhile, convoluted developments take place on the other side of the story, among Perralt’s extended family and the police. The senator’s daughter-in-law Audrey (Anabel Lopez) gets her lover to negotiate the price of her husband’s release, while the police chief (Fritz Jacques Bama) turns out to be even more corrupt than expected. Everybody cheats on everybody in this film, whether in love, business or politics, and no one is really good at anything, least of all our heroes.

In the background of the main story is the election campaign, which turns into riots after news of the kidnapping gets out, and the racial angle is very present: Perralt is a mulatto, and the opening credits inform us it is this population that is considered elite in Haiti. But more important to Doc and Zoe is the Real Madrid-Barcelona game, in which they root for opposing teams, so much so that they tend to forget what their actual goal is.

Structurally, the film is a succession of ultra-kinetic set pieces, alternating with rapid dialogue segments that are often almost as entertaining as the car chases, shootouts and occasional slapstick moments, some of which happen almost too fast to register. Among the multitude of jokes and gags, some are excellently timed and executed, while some fall flat – but maybe they will not for local audiences. As for the actors, Mercure shines with his comedic chops and Andri lends a more contemplative, even melancholy, air to the buddy aspect of the movie.

In the promo materials, the film is dubbed as a cross between City of God and Pulp Fiction. There is certainly some truth to this, even beyond the super-fast pacing, the dynamic and varied camerawork, and the rich colours – Port-au-Prince’s ghettos are visually and atmospherically presented as similar to Rio de Janeiro’s favellas, and the opening scene is a direct quote from Tarantino’s modern classic – but the complicated proceedings and the characters are more akin to a Cohen brothers story of hapless but good-hearted anti-heroes.

The press notes inform us that during the production of the film, three members of the crew were in fact kidnapped, one was wounded and one was killed amidst gang violence, lending an uncanny aspect but also political gravity to the feature. The ending with its final twist is a bit rushed though intelligible enough, and is followed by a coda that is suitably emotional, even if it doesn’t feel completely earned.

Kidnapping Inc. is a co-production between France’s Promenades Films and BHM Films, Haiti’s Muska Films and Canada’s Peripheria.

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