A quick moving, raw and gritty film that needs to be seen.
I honestly cannot think of anything.
Shot on video for less than $500,000, the Secuestro Express is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Yeah, I missed it on it’s limited theatrical run over the summer, but now that it is on DVD I look forward to screening it again and again. Billed on a back cover quote as “City of God meets Goodfellas,” I wasn’t expecting too much from this film. While I don’t know if I see Goodfellas in this movie, it certainly has it’s root in the style and subject matter of City of God.
Taking place in Caracas, Venezuela this movie looks at a lush city surrounded by a large slum. Eventually, when the “have nots” outnumber the people who “have,” things are going to boil over. This takes the form of kidnappings known as a “secuestro express.” Basically, someone is kidnapped for a short time and once money is exchanged the person is either returned or killed. This movie looks at one night in the life of such a situation. I could go into detail and breakdown the situations that develop, but at the end of the day this movie seems to be an allegory for our world at large. It seems to be saying that as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this undoubtedly creates a situation where everybody loses.
In the Secuestro Express, director Jonathan Jakubowicz has created a lively, cautionary tale that should not be ignored.
Surprisingly, there are only two deleted scenes. They are titled “Kidnap Foreshadow” and “Kidnapping Old People.” Shot and edited with the same style and verve of the film, I think it’s good that these scenes were cut. Secuestro Express moves at such a frenzied pace that to have these scenes in the movie would have really slowed it down.
Secuestro Express: The Film & The Facts
This is an expose about what a “secuestro express” is, how they work and what is the general m.o. behind how something like this comes off. Beyond that, this expose also looks at the situation in Caracas and doesn’t explain or defend it, but simply shows the situation that has been created to make these types of kidnappings possible.
In Spanish with English subtitles this movie gets inside the chaos of a production like the Secuestro Express. The cast and crew discuss their characters and how they strived to make this film as real as possible. While it isn’t too much different than the Secuestro Express: The Film & The Facts featurette, it does go a bit more in-depth giving us the opinions of the cast and crew.
This is a music video by the three male stars of the film, who also happen to be a big rap group in Caracas. It is for the song “Guajira.” Sadly, since this song is in Spanish I wasn’t able to really get too much out of it. On a base level it is a pretty typical rap video with a strong visual flair. Since it’s directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz this makes all the sense in the world.
There are two commentary tracks on this DVD. One of the tracks is just with the director and the other one is with the director, the three main bad guys and Jean Paul Leroux. Not surprisingly, I went with the one where the director was solo because A) it was in English and B) it was also easier to follow. He talks about casting the movie, his visual style (using splitscreens, colors, etc.) and translating something in Spanish to English. I didn’t really listen to the commentary with all 5 people because A) it was in Spanish, B) there are 5 people talking over one another and C) I just didn’t think I could get a lot out of “reading” a commentary track.
Widescreen (1.85:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. I am assuming this movie was primarily shot on video (simply because in the “Bonus Features” I got to see some of the camerawork on the production), but there were also some moments of the movie that looked like they were in film. Also, I think they mixed in some news footage to give this movie somewhat of a CNN-type feel. Whatever they did, it really worked to this movie’s advantage. This film just moves and moves with cut upon cut mixed with a bunch of close-ups, while never dwelling on one area for too long.
Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Original Language Track (Spanish). English Subtitles. My only complaint about this film is that since it is in Spanish, I had to spend a lot of the movie reading instead of focusing on the visual aspects of it. As a result, I think I need to rescreen the film simply because I know that I probably missed some really good visual stuff. What I find interesting is that after awhile, movies like this and City of God become easier to watch. We get so used to how the character’s voices sound in Spanish, it seems like the characters are actually speaking English.
This front cover is a montage of many shots from the film. There is a gold background and then splattered across that is a red X. As I said, images from the film are laid all over this with the gorgeous Mia Maestro in the center. The back features a somewhat vague description of the movie, a “Bonus Features/Technical Specs” section and a cast list. Truthfully, this cover seemed to be a bit too obscure for my tastes, which is why I never really paid too much attention to it. As usual, my judging a book by it’s cover cost me.
I cannot wait to see what other film’s Jonathan Jakubowicz makes. It is great to see such a young filmmaker so in charge of their game. Sure, Secuestro Express is a low budget movie and sometimes some of the non-actors aren’t that great, but on the whole so much of this movie is so well done that I think to start nitpicking it doesn’t do anybody any good. This is a very inspired film dealing some issues the filmmaker cares about. Ultimately, I think the ending is a bit too idealistic but I don’ that that detracts from the reality of the movie. This is a film after all and what would be the point if Jakubowicz compromised the movie just to keep it more inside it’s own reality?
Secuestro Express is must see on DVD and I hope that Miramax (sans the Weinstein Bros.) will continue to push and promote daring films like this.
Secuestro Express was released June 1, 2004.