Secuestro Express

Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Mia Maestro, Carlos Julio Molina, Pedro Perez, Carlos Madera

Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz

Welcome to the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, where it’s commonplace for thugs to kidnap wealthy upper-class citizens and demand a relatively small, reasonable ransom from the victims’ families. The objective of these abductions is brevity – cash should be coughed up quickly and quietly, without involvement from authorities or any hiccups with the victims.

In SECUESTRO EXPRESS (direct translation: “kidnapping” express), we follow a young couple (played by Mia Maestro and Carlos Julio Molina) on their difficult journey of abduction and abuse, as they unwillingly visit the slums of the city courtesy of their captors, for whom the experience is all part of a day’s work; just another crime to add to their list of various misdemeanours.

The film is a case of style over substance, leaning too much on the aesthetics and letting the story hover in the background. This is largely due to the way in which it’s shot (DV-CAM; a lot of abrupt, jittery and in-your-face, claustrophobic shots). Although extremely effective, there is often an overflow of these unsettling visual methods, and this is what ultimately makes it feel like an experimental film school project rather than a proper full-length feature.

Not that this is something to be completely condemned. The sometimes stagy plot functions as a time filler and doesn’t feel like the movie’s substantial driving force, creating the impression that it’s there for the benefit of the camera’s tricks; but the visual style does prompt gross discomfort to effectively mimic the characters’ ordeal, which in itself is very personal. As a result, you may feel jittery and apprehensive upon leaving the theatre, as though you yourself have just been ransomed. Such an unsettling response is surely the result of the viewing experience overcoming any faults, and being meaningful despite a less-than-perfect film.

In the broader spectrum it does also hammer home a message of the great class divide that is just one of South America’s various problems, and (like MAN ON FIRE before it) highlights the enormous and very real problem of kidnappings in that part of the world.

Hitching a ride with SECUESTRO EXPRESS is worth the risk, especially if you get a kick out of seeing the world through someone else’s frighteningly subjective gaze.

4 out of 6 stars

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