Secuestro Express

Artfully raw and surprisingly accomplished, Venezuelan writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz's first fiction feature is an exploitation movie in the best sense of the term: The real-life epidemic of gang-related kidnappings in Latin America inspired this explosive tale of crime as punishment. After a night of partying at their upscale country club, Martin...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Artfully raw and surprisingly accomplished, Venezuelan writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz's first fiction feature is an exploitation movie in the best sense of the term: The real-life epidemic of gang-related kidnappings in Latin America inspired this explosive tale of crime as punishment. After a night of partying at their upscale country club, Martin (Jean Paul Leroux), an upper-class, coke-snorting cad who has nothing but contempt for Caracas' poor, and his fiancee, Clara (Mia Maestro), a doctor dedicated to helping the city's needy children, stop at a 24-hour drugstore where they're accosted by four men brandishing guns. This isn't an ordinary stickup: Trece (Carlos Julio Molina), Budu (Pedro Perez) and Niga (Carlos Madera) are violent, career kidnappers, have-nots from the wrong side of Caracas — the desperately impoverished slums that hover on the terraced hillsides that surround the city — who hunt rich Venezuelans and hold them for ransom. The plan is to keep the hostages until Clara's and Martin's parents cough up the ransom money; the whole business should be over in a matter of hours (hence secuestro — "kidnapping" — express) but things get complicated after a stop at a flamboyant drug dealer's (Ermahn Ospina) apartment, where Clara discovers Martin is not exactly the man she thought. To say Jakubowicz is ambivalent toward his kidnappers is an understatement; Trece, in particular, is no worse than Martin and a whole lot better than the police. (In a mordantly funny twist, the criminals themselves becomes victims of street crime — twice.) When Clara pleads with Trece that she's devoted her life to helping the poor, he asks her how she can drive such an expensive car while half the city starves. In order to understand what's happening to her — and Caracas — she must first understand the hate such inequality fosters. The story takes place over the course of two harrowing hours — as in THE WARRIORS (1979), a late-night DJ marks the time — and comes to a head in a vile housing project where the real horror isn't that it's where three thugs are holding a woman hostage, but that it's a place where people live and children play. This is pulp with smarts and a social conscience.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Artfully raw and surprisingly accomplished, Venezuelan writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz's first fiction feature is an exploitation movie in the best sense of the term: The real-life epidemic of gang-related kidnappings in Latin America inspired this exp… (more)

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