Tuesday 11 July 2023

A Kind of Kidnapping (UK 2023: Dir Dan Clark)

In Clark's frequently funny, dark Brexit comedy thriller (yeah I know, as if the real thing didn't have enough mordant humour) two novice kidnappers exploit the opportunity to hold a Tory MP to ransom to get themselves out of their own economic downturn.

In the north east of England, down on his luck cabbie Brian (Jack Parry-Jones) lives with his girlfriend, aspiring actress Maggie (Kelly Wenham). He's trying to get into IT, she's hoping for a decent part but can't even break into commercials, while struggling to alleviate the more extreme aspects of her character via anti depressants. Together they're not exactly feeling the post referendum mantra of 'taking back control', their woes exacerbated by an eviction notice.

But the chance taxi pick up of a very pissed and passed out Conservative politician Richard Hardy (Patrick Baladi) places an idea for quick cash in Brian's head. Hardy, a politician on the left of his party (dubbed 'Tory Blair' by the media) is in the area to exploit the 'benefits' of Brexit for his own ends, and Maggie and Brian see their opportunity for some exploitation of their own. Trussed up and gaffer taped to a chair, the pair upload a viral ransom demand (in Bitcoin, natch) with which they hope Hardy's wife Lyndsey (Olivia Poulet) will comply, in exchange for his safe return. But there's a snag; Mrs H doesn't want the philandering MP back. And when Hardy sees the amount of views that his ransom footage has generated on social media, the politician decides to turn matters to his advantage.

Clark's CV as a comic writer for shorts and TV work ensures that, for the most part, his script for A Kind of Kidnapping is fast, funny and politically on point. As director of the piece, he's very good at establishing first the relationship between Brian - all round nice guy - and the go getting, ambitious and increasingly wayward Maggie; it probably won't surprise that dramatically much use is made of the personality disparity between the pair. The time shift technique to backtrack on the action - a bit of an overdone technique - is here deployed satisfyingly. Baladi's manipulative, smarmy Hardy is of course what's needed to add an additional dimension and play the kidnappers off against each other (it's been over twenty years since his stint as manager Neil from The Office and Baladi still convinces even though Hardy is just a nastier version of that character); although the story takes a bit of a dip in the second half with the introduction of some rather inconclusive Shallow Grave style business and a decidedly unnecessary sex tape subplot, I applaud Clark's ability to keep focus in what in other hands could be a rather limited one set three character setup.

A Kind of Kidnapping is full of great one liners (such as a comment from an audition director to an over emoting Maggie that her performance was perhaps "a bit much for a yoghurt commercial") and Coen-esque, unlikeable characters that you can't help rooting for. I liked it a lot.

A Kind of Kidnapping will be coming to select cinemas from 13th July for a series of special Cast & Crew Q&A screenings, followed by a digital download release on 24th July.

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