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Secuestro Express

One Night in Caracas…

Every sixty minutes, someone in Latin America is abducted. 70% of those kidnapped are never seen again. The Secuestro Express (translation: The Kidnap Express) is a seductive and lucrative business that attracts the abundance of "have nots" in Caracas looking for a quick score. Jonathan Jakubowicz's Secuestro Express explores one of these countless kidnappings in a kinetic, visceral, and harrowing film that leaves one gasping for breath.

Martin (Jean Paul Leroux) and Carla (Mia Maestro) are two of the young "haves" living in Caracas. Their evening begins innocently enough with a little alcohol, a little weed, and a few lines of cocaine. While these two affluent young adults savor what their lifestyle affords, a gang of thugs assembles for their nightly score.

Martin and Carla are exactly the payday Budu (Pedro Perez), Trece (Carlos Julio Molina), and Niga (Carlos Madera) are looking for and they seize the opportunity. Thus ensues a terrifying evening in which Carla and Martin are held captive while their wealthy parents scramble to come up with the cash the thugs are seeking.

The plot unfolds in frantic, chaotic fashion as Budu and his thugs careen through Caracas en route to pick up their ransom money. Naturally, numerous complications (many of which are comical) prevent a clean exchange of cash for human cargo. The breakneck pacing of Secuestro Express allows for zero downtime as Martin and Carla's captors are seemingly always on the move, on the verge of a violent eruption, or both.

The frenetic action of Secuestro Express is wisely filmed on DV. This choice works as it contributes to the sense of immediacy surrounding Carla and Martin's kidnapping. Jakubowicz films numerous scenes inside Carla's car. Capturing these scenes in close quarters creates a profound sense of captivity. As a viewer, it's hard not to feel like a hostage as well.

Jakubowicz does an excellent job of creating villains who are far from one-dimensional. Budu, Trece, and Niga are reprehensible, but these men have families and children. The message here seems to be had these men had a fraction of the opportunities their captives had, they might have traveled down a different path.

The characters in Secuestro Express serve to raise some interesting questions about the stark disparity between people like Martin and Carla and Budu and his gang. When half the population of Caracas is starving and half the population is living like kings and queens, is it any wonder, the "have nots" despise the "haves"?

Jonathan Jakubowicz manages to marry frenetic action, political subtext, and some wonderful moments of dark hilarity a la Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino. Clearly, influenced by the two aforementioned directors, is it any wonder Miramax (the birthplace of Tarantino) snatched up Secuestro Express? If Jakuobwicz's subsequent films are as solid as Secuestro Express, it may not be too long before his name will be mentioned in the same breath as the other two directors.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars