Sundance 2024 Film Festival – Kidnapping, Inc. feels big in scope. I’m not talking about its budget, but rather, the various narrative threads it tries to weave together, coupled with its address of Haiti’s instability. While this film may have one too many subplots, it’s still a sleek film with plenty of humor that addresses a much more serious problem, that being Haiti’s uncertain future and frequenting kidnappings.
The film, directed by Bruno Mourral, who co-wrote the script with Jasmuel Andri and Gilbert Mirambeau Jr., generally centers on the botched kidnapping of a senator’s son. The senator, Benjamin Perralot (Ashley Laraque), is also running for president, so the kidnaping plunges the country into even greater turmoil. Besides the bigger political conspiracy that transpires, the film stars two everyman characters, Zoe (Rolapthon Mercure) and Doc (Andri). They screw up the kidnapping from the get-go and have one zany adventure after the other with high stakes. Doc and Zoe aren’t one dimensional criminals. In fact, they’re very human, and it’s one of the film’s strengths. Doc only kidnaps because of his mom’s medical bills, while Zoe has serious debts he struggles to pay off. One of the film flaws, however, is that the relationship between the men, including how they even know each other besides crime, is never really fleshed out. The film moves fast, from one mishap to the other, especially when the two kidnap another man, Patrick (Patrick Joseph) and his pregnant wife, Laura (Gessica Geneus). Zoe and Doc hope to pass Patrick off as the senator’s son, collect the ransom money, and be on their merry way, but that also doesn’t go as planned.
Geneus and Joseph are great in their roles and provide comedic relief. At one point, when Laura goes into labor, Patrick passes out on the wheel, with Zoe and Doc in the backseat, waving their guns around. Her birth scene is laugh out loud funny, spliced with clips of the World Cup and a crowd of Hattians gathered to watch the game and the birth of Laura’s son in a crowded street. The film also looks slick with a color palette that pops. This is likely due to Mourral’s background shooting commercials. There’s a glossiness that contrasts some of the grim subject matter.
Mourral also focuses on the country’s corruption, specifically how one of the police captains, Fritz (Manfred Marcelin), is in on the kidnapping scheme. The rot trickles down to the local police, with officers insisting people pay up just to drive down the street or pass a checkpoint. This is balanced with the film’s dark humor and tight shots of chase sequences through packed streets or narrow alleyways. That said, at times, some of the subplots are difficult to keep track of, including who’s involved with who, who’s in on the greater kidnapping scheme, and who isn’t. The film works best with it centers on Doc and Zoe.
From the opening, which explains Haiti’s history and racial and economic make-up, Kidnapping, Inc. underscores the country’s troubled and tortured history. The film functions best when it centers the narrative on Zoe and Doc, who struggle to rise above tough circumstances. Sometimes, the various other threads get in the way. Still, this feature looks really good, has a dash of dark humor, and leads to a gut punch of an ending that again highlights Haiti’s instability and insecurity.
7 Out of 10