Kidnapping, Inc. Is an exciting Comedy Highlighting Social Issues [Sundance]

Kidnapping, Inc. still of Doc (Samuel Andri) and Zoe (Rolaphton Mercure) in a car.

Kidnapping, Inc., playing at the Sundance Film Festival, is an exaggerated Haitian comedy about a kidnapping gone hilariously awry. It mixes both verbal and physical comedy, building laughs upon laughs. Yet the stakes never ease as two low-level criminals kidnap a politician’s son but soon find the task is anything but simple. The direction and transitions to different scenes deliver a high-octane momentum that makes the surprises in Kidnapping, Inc. and uses laughter to draw viewers into a haphazard ride with a deeper message.   

Directed by Bruno Mourral and written by Mourral, Jasmuel Andri, and Gilbert Mirambeau Jr.Kidnapping Inc. starts akin to Goodfellas, with Doc (Jasmuel Andri) and Zoe (Rolapthon Mercure), congregating around the trunk of their car. They remove items to fix a flat tire, and viewers soon realize a man, bound with a sack over his head, is in the trunk. It seems a simple task to kidnap. Unfortunately, after the hostage, Ti Ben, bites Zoe and Zoe slugs him, the man doesn’t move. So begins the chaos with the backdrop of a football match and political unrest that has more to do with their task than thought at first glance. 

Kidnapping, Inc. Is Oddball Almost Slapstick Comedy With a Dark Edge

Kidnapping, Inc. still of Doc (Samuel Andri) and Zoe (Rolaphton Mercure) standing in the street staring.
Samuel Andri and Rolaphton Mercure appear in Kidnapping Inc. by Bruno Mourral, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Doc and Zoe are both hilarious. But Doc’s reactions and facial expressions as more wild situations unfold are beyond comical. That familiar “how can this be happening” face pushes the comedy further. But underneath the laughs, there’s a look at the community and the societal upheaval that leaves many economically destitute. Additionally, racial tensions relating primarily to skin color mark how some characters—such as one of the villains—engage with others. Shot in Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, Kidnapping, Inc. has a vibrancy that quickly connects with viewers. 

Tonally, the shift between funny and pained, heartfelt and unnerving, occurs at the same pace as the frenzied chases. Sometimes, the changes from one emotion to the other extreme switch too fast. But the film’s chaotic pace ensures the jarring emotional shifts do not feel too far out of place. Kidnapping, Inc. uses comedy to build a story audiences want to know more about while pointing out societal issues. 

The Two Leads Drive the Movie

Kidnapping, Inc. photo of director Bruno Mourral.
Bruno Mourral, director of Kidnapping Inc., an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Jasmuel Andri and Rolapthon Mercure have sensational rapport, and their friendship feels genuine throughout the movie. Friends always have to take turns being the voice of reason for each other. So, their back and forth throughout their misfortunes make the friendship all the more believable. The direction adds a frantic nature to many of their interactions, making the pauses or lingering shots emotionally stronger. Through the genre it emphasizes the insecurity that creates the problems.

It’s like the comedy of errors from Emergency (another gem that premiered at Sundance in 2022) meets the corruptness of Man on Fire. But in Kidnapping, Inc., audiences get the perspective of two bumbling kidnappers low on the criminal enterprise rung. Direction complements what transpires on screen, and two lead actors who juggle the comedy, thrills, and dramatic moments cement this as a great film. It is surprisingly emotional by the time the end credits roll. Funny but moving beyond words, Kidnapping, Inc. is a surprise gem this year at Sundance. 

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