DVD Review: Kidnapped

Kidnapped, like the famous Monty Python Parrot, is deceased and I fear no amount of tub-thumping can bring it back. But tub-thump I shall, because…well, I’m not very smart. I am however smart enough to get in out of the rain and to recognize good stuff when I step in it and Kidnapped is pure gold, friends, pure dramatic gold.

I know, I know, in every third TV show or movie someone gets snatched for ransom, and it generally holds about as much dramatic tension as washday. (Maybe less.) We’ve seen it too many times to care. Not so fast, discerning viewer; you’ve never seen it like this…no reason to trust me on this one, but do it anyway. Kidnapped will pop your ennui, and we both know how you love that.

There were a surprising number of promising series this season that shortly ran out of steam; Smith, for one. Kidnapped started strong and got jarringly better each week. Writing: superb. Acting: at least that good. Direction: masterful, atmosphere to burn; maybe the best drama I’ve ever seen on television.

This is not a review. It’s a valentine.

When I outline the plot, you’d likely think ‘Yawn, same old stuff”, but it’s like making love (Kama Sutra and contortionists aside); there’s only so many ways to go and the magic is in the handling of the proceedings, not necessarily reinventing the exercise. Like the difference between a picture of food and a meal. The notes are the same but the song is very different and beautifully rendered. And to carry the music simile still further, it is how it comes to make you feel, for therein lies the magic. I’d seen it all before too and most of the time I felt like a sandwich. Kidnapped is so very real I sometimes felt like a peeping tom. (That’s when I knew they owned me.)

Sure, there were a couple of bad signs in the beginning- the hero, the independent kidnapping specialist, is called Knapp. Someone ought to be slapped. And Jeremy Sisto the actor playing him, came on looking only slightly cleaner and better dressed than your average refugee. There, I thought, goes the ball game. Now if he is smarter than everyone else in the world except maybe Stephen Hawking, this is sick making and gets no more of my electricity. But no, the unfortunately named Mr. Knapp is an unusually rounded character with more facets that a rock stars nipple ring. And he ain’t alone, not by a long shot. Delroy Lindos’ F.B.I. agent Latimer King is a man of many parts and he shows you most of them, spinning and turning. Turner (Carmen Egojo), Knapps’ associate–besides being lovely–is a computer/electronics/information wizardess who plants a homing device in Knapp’s wallet, somewhat to his surprise (“How’d you get into my wallet?”). She also knows where his rubber bullets are (“In the box marked Rubber Bullets.”). The Techno-Magi has become required in current mysteries or thrillers and I haven’t seen it done any better.

Which brings us to the Cains, Conrad (Timothy Hutton) and Ellie (Dana Delaney). Nice piece of casting. When their only son is grabbed on his way to school one morning, his bodyguard shot and left for dead (more on him later), these two do more acting with fewer words than I think I have ever seen. It’s already been made clear, by this point, that all is not caviar and cold duck in their marriage; but the scene where he makes her a cup of tea in the kitchen, one sleepless night, is so genuinely tender it could bring a tear to your eye. No doubt this is a pair of pros with material they can get all their teeth into, and with no intention of leaving hungry.

Virgil, the boy’s bodyguard and friend, is beautifully rendered by Mykelti Williamson (Bubba of Forrest Gump). Coincidently–it at first appears– Virgil is Latimer King’s brother-in-law. The plot doesn’t thicken, it sets up like portland cement. Leaving his hospital bed to go after Leopold, “Because I told him I’d be ready,” he saves more bacon than vegetarianism.

It becomes pretty clear pretty early that this is no garden variety kidnapping, but if not that, what? Too well funded and too well planned and just too much for a take-the-money-and-run affair. I half expected people to start baying like Bloodhounds as it wound down.

This is what television could be and so rarely is and the best series you never saw.

The Special Features are nicely done but too brief (bet you never thought you’d hear me say that), barely brushing the storyline with some very good stuff on word and name meanings.

Lee Crawford