The Review: The Italian crime genre, also known as Poliziotteschi, is one that had remained as obscure as they come until only in recent years for us North American viewers. I was only introduced to the genre by Quinton Tarantino and his description of the genre at one of his QT-festivals. I believe he described it as “The only genre bloodier than the films of John Woo”, or something to that effect. Now that I’ve seen enough of these films to gain a grasp of just what they are all about – I can respectfully disagree with that assessment; however I will say that even though they aren’t the bloodiest films on the market by and large – they are some of the best caper and crime flicks you are going to run into. Reminding me of John Carpenter and his low budget action tales, meeting with Tarantino himself and his inescapable cool factor. Kidnapped was recommended to me by Laydback over at the Grindhouse Database and I’m glad I listened. It has turned out to be one of the better Italian crime flicks I have seen. Though not dealing with the usual “cops vs. robber” motif that the genre seems to focus on mostly, this piece is filled with an intense tension that only a filmmaker of the caliber of Mario Bava could create. Although films like this have been done many times over, in such works as Hitch Hike – Bava creates the tension felt by all the characters from the very beginning of the film and carries it on all the way throughout. You would think it would be easy to say this for all films of this genre, but Bava does more than just sit us alongside some crazies to mentally beatdown a couple of tourists for an hour and a half – he takes us along for the ride inside the car with them. He plays with every role in the film, shows us every possible corner of these five characters and their personalities – and transforms them in front of our very eyes. The film sucks you into its world and then spits you out on the roadside, while devastating you with its cruelty.
The film gets your attention from the very start, with an intense action piece where our “heroes” (more like villains) commit their crime and rob a pharmaceutical company. From there we are wrapped up in a ten minute chase sequence that takes us through Italy, in parking garages and onto the streets. This whole sequence is so memorable and tense, and helps to establish the main characters – as Doc remains calm in the face of immediate capture while the two friends in 32 and Stiletto each take turns panicking. This sets up the entire film really, showing the differences between the men but showing over all their willingness to forego anyone else to save their own necks. This sequence also sets up the unpredictability of Stiletto as he kills a woman without even intentionally doing it, just sliding his knife into her neck. As the film goes along and we are introduced to each kidnapped victim, we are thrown into a constant state of panic as we fear for their lives and at times even fear for the criminals to be captured – because we know what they are willing to do when confronted by the police. The film takes a stark and brutal stance on the villains, and although at times Doc seems like the most human; he too is simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His ability to keep calm and always be in control makes him the most dangerous of the three and also the most relateable; due to his willingness to hear the victims out and debate them. During the moments where we get to know the main cast, there’s always a sense of impending doom even when no law enforcement figures are around or any attempts at escape are being made. The stark terror of what can or will happen always looms over the film and I am so impressed with Bava and his storytelling ability. He fakes the audience out on several occasions, allowing them to gain a false hope that maybe everything will be resolved soon as the characters stop in at gas stations and diners where characters seem to take pause and question the situation of those who have entered their establishment. Will they make that phone call, will they take down the plate number? You never know and the film always keeps you guessing.
From start to the traumatic and mind blowing twist of a final sequence, Kidnapped is a nervewracking and raw experience. The human endurance is pushed the limits with characters being shoved as far as they can go, in one scene the dirtbags go so far as to make the female lead urinate outside in front of them for their own amusement. Yeah, it’s a tough one. Easily one of the best Eurocult films I have seen in a while. I personally don’t have a whole lot of experience with Mario Bava’s work outside of this and Black Sunday; but I am now so impressed with his work. I can’t wait to seek out any other forgotten gems I may have missed. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the film, but I sincerely hope others out there will read this review and look at the gallery and put together the puzzle that took me so long to figure out: this Mario Bava dude really does know his stuff. Do check it out everybody, and prepare to have your mind blown! It’s a four out of five, only because the film does play its genre pretty close to heart and I think it could have been an even stronger film had the characters spread their wings a little further away from the expected – but that’s neither here nor there, Kidnapped is a very high four and it came so close to being a Captain Stubbing Award Winner. The closest any film has been in a while!