Kidnapping Inc. (2024)

Sundance Film Review: Kidnapping Inc.

Film Reviews

Sundance Film Review: Kidnapping Inc.
Director: Bruno Mourral

Muska Films
Premiere: 01.22

Filmed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti over the course of three years, the cast and crew of the crime-comedy-thriller mashup Kidnapping Inc. experienced COVID-19 border closures, civil unrest following a presidential assassination, the murder of a supporting actor and the abduction of three production team members, who were held hostage for $1 million each before the Haitian prime minister intervened to arrange their release.

In a report released on January 23, the United Nations announced that Haiti saw nearly 2,500 kidnappings and 5,000 murders in 2023. Spurred by the harrowing irony of the film’s subject matter, director Bruno Mourral persevered through the innumerable and unique challenges of filming in Haiti in order to finish the movie and bring it to Sundance. It’s a shame, though, that the story of how he got there, as described during the post-screening Q&A, was ultimately more engaging and extraordinary than the scattered, indecisive and underwritten film itself.

Kidnapping Inc. endeavors to straddle the line between a gritty “one last job” suspense drama with vague political satire and an absurdist buddy comedy about a hare-brained scheme gone awry. Amateur gangsters Zoe (Rolapthon Mercure) and Doc (Jasmuel Andri) accidentally kill their hostage, the son of current senator and presidential candidate Benjamin Perralt (Ashley Laraque), and attempt to switch his body with a random doppelganger off the street (Patrick Joseph). It dips a toe into critiques of elitism, corruption and colonialism but the pacing is too frenetic and the dozens of characters are too one-note for any of these themes to truly stick.

The film is strongest when it hones in on the relationship between the two amateur gangsters at its center. Zoe is anxious, impulsive and insecure; Doc is annoyed, overconfident and jaded. They’re equally idiotic when it comes to criminal plotting, and their back-and-forth dynamic makes for some funny moments, though nothing worthy of a real guffaw or even a hearty cackle. After inviting the audience to laugh at (not with) these buffoons for the majority of the run time, Kidnapping Inc. makes a last-minute attempt to add genuine emotional weight to their plight, but by that point it feels awkward and forced.

Once it becomes clear that these two are merely pawns in a much bigger political theater, the large supporting cast becomes bloated with caricatures: a corrupt politician, a careless lackey, a hysterical wife. Gessica Geneus steals the spotlight as Laura, a stubborn pregnant woman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time who continually throws Doc and Zoe off guard. However, her storyline ends with a public birthing spectacle that coincides with the final few minutes of a heated soccer match; just one of multiple overindulgent and unnecessarily shocking sequences, such as a lingering close-up of a dead dog named Rihanna.

Kidnapping Inc. was a film that I desperately wanted to love based on the rich sociopolitical context and the incredible tenacity of the cast and crew, but it ultimately failed to live up to expectations. Still, it felt like a uniquely Haitian story that could have really gripped audiences with a more narrow focus and clearer tone. I’m interested to see what Mourral creates next. –Asha Pruitt

Read more of SLUG‘s comprehensive coverage of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.