The influence of TV addicto-thriller 24 has found its way to South America. Secuestro Express utilises multi-angle shots, breathless shaky camerawork and even a recurring digital clock to tell its one-night story of mercenary kidnapping, nasty violence and extreme class tension in the badlands of Caracas.
The film is cheaply shot (using DV cameras, in fact) but brilliantly observed - 28-year-old director Jonathan Jakubowicz (Distance, Ships Of Hope) is a native of Caracas and has seen this stuff first-hand. Much of it was filmed in genuinely dangerous, civil war-torn neighbourhoods where on-set security had to outnumber the actual film crew. This harsh, tense environment has brought the best out of the actors involved. Maestro does bricking it very well, but retains an intelligent edge that makes her the focal point of the film's emotional journey. Blades is terrific as her desperate father and Leroux is convincingly smug and sleazy. But in a minor case of life imitating art, Carlos J Molina, Pedro Perez and Carlos Madera all come close to stealing the film from under everyone's noses, playing their fast-talking abductors with alarmingly gritty realism.
The whole thing packs a tasty punch and odd-but-fascinating Pulp Fiction-style quirks, and while the low-budget production values don't make for eye candy, they do ramp up the realism. Some scenes are so sweatily intimate you'll feel slightly dirty afterwards. This grim tone means Secuestro Express won't appeal to fans of movie fluff, but this film isn't supposed to make anyone comfortable - it works as much as an exposé of these shocking everyday kidnappings and the socio-political reasons why they happen as it does a piece of standalone storytelling. That, in itself, is an impressive achievement.
Relentlessly thought-provoking, uncompromisingly in-your-face: this is a graphic snapshot of Latin America's social malaise.