Thursday, March 22, 2012

We Have Your Husband (Johnson Production Group, Silver Screen Partners, Lifetime, 2011)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

This morning I watched a recording of a Lifetime movie from last November, We Have Your Husband, supposedly based on a true story about a kidnapping in Mexico in 2007 — though the trailers shown for it then had not made it clear that it was set in Mexico and the only real difference between it and quite a number of other Lifetime movies in which the heroine’s bucolic existence is disrupted by some horrible peril for herself and/or her family is that the scenes of the bucolic existence in the exposition are accompanied by mariachi music, strummed guitars and other cheesy music cues to establish “Mexicanicity.” The woman in peril is Jayne Valseca (Teri Polo), a U.S.-born blonde who 15 years previously married a Mexican, Eduardo Valseca (Esai Morales, about the only person in this cast I’d heard of before), and settled with him on his ranch outside the Mexican town of Santa Natale (“birthplace of the saints”?) in the state of Guanajuato. All is going well for them — though he’s the son of a Mexican media baron (“the William Randolph Hearst of Mexico,” we’re obligingly told in the dialogue) he only has a small income plus a $500,000 bank account that is solely in his name, but he’s got a Texas investor, Col. Wimberly (William R. Moses), interested in buying part of the ranch to build a golf course for $8 million — until one day, when Jayne and Eduardo are returning home after dropping their kids off at school and their SUV is surrounded on the road by four other cars.

Both of them are kidnapped by four men wearing ski masks, and eventually she escapes — she’s left in the back of a van with a hammer, symbol of a Mexican revolutionary political group called the EPR, which tells the AFI agent (apparently those are the real initials of the name of the Mexican national police, usually colloquially known as the Federales) Raul (Nicholas Gonzalez, a hot, sexy and very intense performer who out-acts the principals) that it’s a political kidnapping and they are unlikely to kill the kidnap victim but that the ransom demand is likely to be high. (Over)directed by Eric Bross from a teleplay by J. B. White, We Have Your Husband (a bit of a misnomer because by taking both members of the couple, then releasing her, the kidnappers let it be known that they have her husband without having to tell her so in so many words) is nonetheless a pretty exciting movie even though I watched through most of it expecting a reversal that either the local police or someone the couple knew well (like Eduardo’s friend Gustavo Otero, played by Danny Mora) was in on the crime and faked it to look like a political kidnapping — the kidnappers, whoever they were, had clearly done a lot of research about the family, knowing (among other things) about the $8 million deal for the golf course (which predictably falls through during the course of the story — a kidnapping isn’t the greatest encouragement for U.S. investors to sink a lot of money in a tourist-oriented project in a Mexican town) and even where in the U.S. Eduardo and Jayne met 15 years earlier.

But no such plot twist came, though there was an ironic situation in which director Bross intercut between scenes of Eduardo being tortured (supposedly the kidnappers cut off one of his ears — though when he’s finally released and comes home to his family Esai Morales’s head looks normal, with the full complement of ears nature and the gene pool gave him — and also shot him with a gun at point-blank range in a way that wouldn’t hurt him but would scare the shit out of his wife when she saw the video they e-mailed her) with shots of a police raid on an EPR encampment where they were holding a kidnap victim — a different one, it turns out. There are some of the usual problems with this movie — among them the predictable one that it takes place in a dream vision of “Mexico” in which everyone speaks accented but linguistically impeccable English — but in the end it’s one of those films in which the basic story is so exciting it triumphs over ineptitudes in the execution (and I’d also like to note for future reference the name of Christopher Saavedra, who plays the Valsecas’ appealingly long-haired son Diego) and though the final scene is pretty cornball — Eduardo, disheveled, with a grey beard and wearing pants too big for him (I guess we’re supposed to believe he lost that much weight in captivity), shows up back at the ranch the night of Diego’s birthday party — the note just before the closing credits, which says that the kidnappers have never been caught and the Valsecas have never returned to the ranch they once loved so much, has the uncertainty of real life about it rather than the neat loose-ends tying-up of a fiction story.