Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Kidnapping (Larry Levinson/Lifetime, 2007)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2010 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The film was The Kidnapping, a 2007 suspense thriller that seemed to be a knockoff of the 1962 theatrical movie Experiment in Terror — in which a psycho harasses a female bank employee and demands that she embezzle a large amount of money and give it to him or he’ll kill her and rape her younger sister. This time around the principal victim is Rachel McKenzie (Amy Carlson), who’s in line to be promoted to head of security at her bank following the sudden death of her predecessor in that position. Instead of a sister it’s a daughter, Hannah (Darcy Rose Byrnes), whom she has to worry about, and the titular kidnapping is of the daughter. The kidnappers are corrupt cops Glen (Judd Nelson, past his prime but still surprisingly good-looking and authoritative in the role) and Cash (Thomas Ian Griffith), who got into a sideline to supplement their income (it’s not at all clear where this is supposed to be taking place; some of the city streetscapes look like New York but there’s also a stock shot of the famous central plaza at L.A. International Airport) and it’s now snowballed into quite nasty sorts of crime, including murder.

The person they murdered was Raymond Cardoza (Gary Bisig), who had once been a colleague of theirs in both above-board police work and the criminal stuff they were doing, only he got diagnosed with terminal cancer and wanted to get right with God or something by repenting and turning his former co-conspirators in. To do this he has hidden something in a safe-deposit box in the bank where Rachel works — they don’t know precisely what and neither do we — and when he refuses to turn over to them the access codes for the box so they can get at whatever it is, Glen kills Cardoza and then decides to get the box opened by kidnapping the new bank security chief’s daughter and making the ransom the access codes for the box. Rachel, not knowing Cardoza is dead, goes to his house with the intent of asking him for the codes; she finds his body and she also finds a young man walking a ferocious German shepherd dog (called “Tiger” but played, according to, by a dog named “Sadie” — a Transgender dog movie in the other direction than the Lassie films?) Rachel is spotted by this person and for the rest of the movie she can’t confide in the police, not only because the kidnappers have told her not to but because the cops — the non-corrupt ones — suspect her of killing Cardoza and being in on the bad guys’ plot.

The adult woman friend of Rachel’s who was kidnapped along with the daughter (she was baby-sitting her at the time) is killed trying to escape, and another friend of Rachel’s tries to follow the crooks and gets Rachel’s daughter’s life threatened for her pains — but she leads the cops into the right direction and to the item that’s going to bring down the gang, a computer memory card containing a video of the two bad cops gunning someone down execution-style, Rachel meets the crooks and gives them the card, which they burn — she’s backed up the video to her own laptop, but it’s nearly destroyed by a police officer who’s part of the crooked scheme and has been reporting the honest cops’ every move to the corrupt ones — and eventually they find the crooks’ hideout, but not before Rachel has pulled a gun on Glen (a gun that the crooks had there for their own use) and, just when he’s finished taunting her about how she doesn’t have the guts to pull the trigger, she does just that, drilling him and eliminating him for good with one surprisingly well-aimed shot to what Bette Davis would have called “where his heart ought to have been.” The Kidnapping may not sound like much in summary, but it’s a first-rate suspense thriller, maybe a bit familiar but overcoming that with taught, intense direction by Arthur Allan Seidelman and a well-constructed script by Steven H. Berman.