Kidnap (2007)

Directed by: Law Chi-Leung
Written by: Cheung Chi-Gwong
Producers: Cheung Chi-Gwong, Stanley Tong & Yue Xiao-Mei
Starring: Rene Liu, Karena Lam, Eddie Cheung, Julian Cheung, Gwok To, Ella Koon & Xiao Bao

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Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2008:
Best Actress (Rene Liu)

Nominations at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2007:
Best Actress (Rene Liu)

Inspector Ho Yuen Chung (Rene Liu - Siao Yu, Double Vision) heads a kidnapping case where Lam Hiu Yeung's (Karena Lam - Inner Senses) brother's life is on the line. After an accident that leaves kidnappers dead, Lam's brother loses his life in the end and Lam's faith in the police goes as well. Cut to 3 years later and in need of money for her husband Qian's (Xiao Bao) treatment of his chronic illness, Lam hatches a plan to kidnap the son of wealthy Mr. Wang (Gwok To). Only problem is, the son is friends with Ho Yuen Chung's son and it's her boy that is in fact kidnapped...

There's nothing wrong with wanting to dabble into something else besides darkness and action but when Law Chi-Leung decided to, what we remembered of the director that gave us Double Tap and Inner Senses went straight out of the window. Bug Me Not! was the commercial product (not film) that did introduce Isabella Leong but ended up faring ill amongst every critic not 5 years old. Maybe I shouldn't judge I haven't seen it but I know where I prefer Law to be and it's not amongst CGI-bugs. Leong deservedly went on to acclaim in Edmond Pang's Isabella, director Law Chi-Leong was part of the announcement of Kidnap and presto, still slightly ill from the cutesy, commercial bug he may be but to keep it simple, the film represents a return to comfort.

Just like many movies, there exists the potential of wanting to appear smart but you instead end up twisting the script until it pukes out of dizziness. There is a case to be made though that writer/co-producer Cheung Chi-Gwong has something up his sleeve. Structurally no surprises initially as we see the cops failing at keeping their promises so this creates a cunning, resourceful and frail Lam as played by Karena Lam. We feel a huge bump first however as her transition to at least close to master criminal isn't very believable even in a shallow way and giving the supremely talented Lam little chance to elevate herself above this rather flat role, Kidnap will never make anyone forget its needed, clinched content being rather failed. But the ride holds some surprises anyway.

The narrative-steps into kidnapping, negotiating with cops and surveillance seems or rather is very lifted and Law Chi-Leung doesn't exactly infuse the production with a lot of confidence. It's ticking off the beats, such as deadly boring ones showcased as we see Rene Liu's character being divorced (ex played by Julian Cheung) and dealing with cracks in parenting. There exists a quickness though, a need to get to the actual twist of the tale and getting not so much the most out of the psychology that follows, Cheung Chi-Gwong and Law goes to work to log a vehicle where we do wonder how far it can go. Because it's personal and emotional, often flirting with mental instability within the inflicted and since Karena Lam unfortunately has no room to move, Rene Liu responds with a varied portrayal of an inflicted.

It's raw, naked emotion that prior was swift, smooth moves like a butterfly through your lifeact and while Liu is called upon to pull out the big beats, Law finds a reality in the tale that is recognizable within that character-shell. Seeing Liu's eyes go manic, her sink to her knees in desperation moments later heightens tension (that is done well in a handful of sequences otherwise too) as well as the fair strength the slick production has as anything can go wrong it seems. Again, we genuinely wonder if it will. Expect the unexpected? One such unexpected idea is giving otherwise supporting player (often in Johnnie To's flicks) Eddie Cheung a bigger arena to play in. Being the tough and at appropriate times in the narrative human cop who feels remorse for the events 3 years prior has its place in Kidnap.

Law Chi-Leung certainly holds us till the end while still only injecting fair depth into the part thrill ride, part drama. But the glimpse into something we do know of from other films is still done with enough skill and backed up by an at times clever script to warrant the investment. You can argue and it might as well be wrong that the most clever move by the filmmakers was to do a standard flick for a few reels only to squeeze some gasp-moments and emotions out of it by the end but whatever the intention was, the bits work. Not just all of them but Law Chi-Leung has shaken off quite a lot of the cutesy bugs he surrounded himself with prior. We welcome one of his feet back into the room of respect.

The DVD:

Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Spotless, sharp and detailed throughout, no complaints about the presentation here.

Audio options are Cantonese (featuring a welcome and realistic use of Mandarin as well, seemingly) Dolby Digital EX, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.

The English subtitles never feature any obvious flaws in terms of grammar and spelling. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Extras include an 8 minute, 56 second Making Of (featuring the same subtitle options as the feature) where director and actors spend most of the time talking about their characters and little is spent on the movemaking process. Rene Liu touches upon some interesting choices while prepping for her role though. A Music Video (an actual performance video, not just movie clips set to music) and the trailer finishes the package.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson