What happens when a corporate scientist is kidnapped while working in South africa? Does her company call for the cops? Does it heck. It sends for hostage negotiator Dominic King (Trevor Eve). His company doesn’t specialise in slam-bang rescue raids; they’re all about steady chats with the kidnappers, arranging a ransom fee and bringing the kidnapee home safely.
“It’s not just a drama about a one-off kidnap situation,” is how Eve describes the series on the disc’s sole extra, an interview with the actor who doubles up as producer. “It’s a character-filled piece that explores, really, how a hostage negotiator lives his life.” Hmm, yeah... that’s both one of the best things about this three-part drama and also one of the worst... On the plus side, it is good to see Eve getting to do a bit of proper thesping.
The research and the time he spent with real-life hostage negotiators definitely seems to have paid off and King feels like a properly rounded character. The trouble is, he’s about the only one. Kidnap And Ransom may be filled with safe hands (John Hannah, Helen Baxendale, Emma Fielding, Patrick Baladi, Natasha Little), but most of them are just marking time in spit-and-cough roles that really aren’t worthy of their talents. And things aren’t helped by the fact that the plot isn’t exactly jam-packed with incident.
Yes, there are one or two tense moments and the odd splodge of gunplay here and there, but great swathes of it consist of telephone conversations between Eve and assorted kidnappers. Apparently that’s absolutely true to what a negotiator’s life is like, but it doesn’t make for great drama. Even when you’ve got John Hannah smouldering menacingly on the other end of the line as the main villain of the piece, it’s still just two people talking on the phone. The other problem is that it’s far too long.
ITV’s obsession with three-part dramas means that what should have been a snappy 90 minutes dawdles along. It’s fine to stomach the slow-burn reaction shots of Eve as he acts, but most of the scenes with Little as Eve’s wife and Baxendale as his boss could have been excised without affecting the overall story one jot. The end result is an okay drama, but as a viewer you’re frustratingly aware that Kidnap And Ransom had the potential to have been a good one. If only they’d managed to set it free.
It may be true to life but it seems that this particular reality can only create a decent telly drama, not a great one.