Connect with us


Sundance 2024 – Kidnapping Inc ★★★



Released: Sundance Film Festival 2024

Director: Bruno Mourral

Starring: Jasmuel Andri, Rolaphton Mercure

Being the first fictionalised feature from Haiti is bound to be a heavy responsibility for a director’s debut feature. Particularly where the intention is to provide a voice to the country’s citizens that have been subject to instability and the ensuing repercussions. Kidnapping Inc, however, satirises the nation’s issues with crime with a kidnapping as its centre point. Told from the perspective of wannabe gangsters, Doc and Zoe, the film leans in to darkly comedic, slapstick antics despite its heavy themes. Its Caribbean style of irreverent humour may therefore not be to everyone’s taste as director Bruno Mourral presents an outlandish tale.

Kidnapping Inc may seem directionless as it provides factual statistics on the one hand in its introductory scenes but quickly dismisses any elements of seriousness on the other hand. Title cards reveal that 55% of the Haitian population lives on less than $3.65 per day with more than 1000 people being kidnapped. Furthermore, at the beginning of 2023, Haiti’s UN Office indicated that close to 300 kidnappings had occurred. Another theme established by a title card, is that the Mulatto lighter skinned population are considered to be the elites.  

Mourral, however, changes tack rapidly in exploring the madcap volatile activity of Doc and Zoe faced with an erratic, malfunctioning car boot containing their kidnapped victim, a political candidate’s son. Parallels may be drawn to the Pulp Fiction characters within this depiction as the film was a source of inspiration for Mourral.  Matters go from bad to worse for Doc and Zoe, who are effectively delivery persons for an organised kidnapping unit.

Mourral’s decision to maintain a tight camera focus on Doc and Zoe, hilariously played by Jasmuel Andri and Rolaphton Mercure with good chemistry, also reflects the structure of buddy cop movies such as Lethal Weapon. There are also action sequences with close up camera shots on car wheels and gear sticks that would not be out of place in a Michael Mann film. Yet the intention may be to make the kidnappers seem humane by learning about their motivations – Doc has a sick mother and tells himself this will be his last mission whereas Zoe likens many situations to football and seems dim-witted. Yet, this attempt at personalisation seems misguided amongst the film’s overall chaotic tone. Doc and Zoe may harbour desires for a better life but their misfortune does provide the opportunity for viewers to become immersed within the back streets of Port au Prince in Haiti.  Gun toting chases occur on foot, which the residents film on their phones like a spectator sport. Hand held camera work adds to the madcap, frenzied tone of the film.

Unfortunately, Mourral seems to have thrown in the kitchen sink within Kidnapping Inc as he clearly has a lot of socio-political commentary to unveil in his bid to raise awareness. As such, aspects of political machinations and police corruption are also touched upon, but half-developed, in connection with the kidnapping plot. But, there is no denying the film’s relevance in its confrontation of this subject. The unusual twist is that three crew members were kidnapped during the time of filming in 2021. The increased levels of kidnapping are sadly a commonplace reality for many Haitians which may be connected to the lack of police resources.

Whilst Kidnapping Inc does not delve in to the causes of the current state of lawlessness, as the film is rather silly in places, Mourral does lend his voice to highlight the inequality that colourism promotes. There are scenes of political news broadcasts indicating that the black members of the Haitian community should not be in power as the Mulattos were the ones that created the jobs. As the film flits between these more profound moments and the absurd, Mourral’s message to raise awareness runs the risk of being diluted.

Kidnapping Inc offers a rarely seen comedic perspective within Haitian films. Still, it highlights the every day challenges faced by many Haitians. There are many enjoyable elements to be found within Kidnapping Inc, but its scattergun approach may ultimately prove to be its undoing.

Just For You