‘A Kind of Kidnapping’ Review: A Film Unable To Keep Its Audience Fully Captive  

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A Kind of Kidnapping (2023) © Hook Pictures

A Kind of Kidnapping follows a down-on-their-luck couple, Maggie (Kelly Wenham) and Brian (Jack Parry-Jones), who find themselves facing eviction and in desperate need of a payday. Their luck changes when MP Richard Hardy (Patrick Baladi) comes to tour their Northern town in a bid to show his acknowledgement of its working-class citizens. After encountering Maggie at a restaurant, Hardy’s tour will take a turn for the worse when he is kidnapped by her and Brian.  

★★★✰✰ 

The main reason Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982) works so well is because of how it chooses to undercut its should-be-dramatic kidnapping story with imperfections and human error, leading to miscommunications that successfully contrast the dark and the light. The King of Comedy never overplays its situations, and trusts its audience to understand why Rupert Pumpkin (Robert De Niro) being clearly in over his head is implicitly funny.

This is not an easy line to walk, and in the first few minutes of A Kind of Kidnapping, a similar comedic tone seems to have been found. As Maggie and Brian debate how to make their hostage video more convincing, leading Maggie to clock Hardy with her pistol, Brian’s mundane British response of “Yeah, that’ll do” works to undercut the situation in a funny way. The film does not spell out the contrast between the violent act and the unexciting response, or fee like it has to explain to viewers why it works. Sadly, this trust in the audience is not maintained throughout. There are some interesting plot points here and there, and timely political satire that successfully switches up the initially telegraphed story, but A Kind of Kidnapping eventually crumbles under the weight of its own earnestness.

The fun trio of leading performances does mostly manage to support the plot, which takes some unique and welcome deviations. Once Hardy is kidnapped, and it becomes clear that Maggie and Brian are in over their heads, he spots an opportunity to milk the kidnapping narrative for publicity. Once Hardy starts to work with Maggie and Brian, it tests their relationship, causing the original plan to change in unexpected ways.  

A Kind of Kidnapping delivers its plot with confidence and a keen eye for political satire. As Hardy spells out his reasons for wanting to stay ‘kidnapped’, the film refuses to overexplain itself or even over-villainise Hardy, something that would undo the real-life political undertones that have genuine implications on the plot. Occurring at the half-hour mark, Hardy’s changing attitude elevates a set-up that would otherwise add nothing new to the genre. It not only acts as a moment of genuine pathos for what this means about the state of current politics, but it aligns Hardy and Maggie in their motivation to be seen and appreciated by people. A Kind of Kidnapping’s plot set-up emphasises the differences between Hardy’s high-class status and Maggie’s low-class status, a sentiment that does not offer much to the cultural conversation around the wealth-poverty gap. It feels overdone and does not add anything new. But, aligning Hardy and Maggie in their motivations injects welcome nuance to the class dialogue, that manages to infuse the topic with crucial shades of human greyness that had been missing not only from the film, but that have been missing in real-life class debate.

A Kind of Kidnapping (2023) © Hook Pictures

Much like this set-up for Hardy, Maggie’s character is initially treated with equal subtlety. A brief scene of her running out of pills that goes unexplained, or a brief throwaway line about anti-depressants, manage to turn her Maggie into an actual person, mainly because the film does not make a definitive statement on how we should perceive her.

However, the characters are let down by the dialogue, which does not make enough of the implications of Hardy’s decision to stay, instead boiling the conflict down to annoying name-calling that leans in to cultural stereotypes of posh and working-class people. At its worst it explicitly points out the differences between Maggie and Hardy, ranging from eye-rolling jokes about his ‘posh’ bathroom habits to her stereotypical Northern rage that betrays the character and her mental health struggles. A Kind of Kidnapping works best when it stays subtle, but the dialogue constantly rips this away in favour of swear words and masturbation jokes.

A Kind of Kidnapping (2023) © Hook Pictures

As the film goes on, stereotypes continue to creep in and the characters shrink into caricatures of themselves. Hardy becomes stock creepy politician, Maggie becomes angry Northern lady and Jack becomes the overly-nice boyfriend. The comedy becomes more spelled-out, and the power dynamic between the three loses all sense of weight and relevance. There are a couple of welcome comedic spins that retain the darkly funny nature of the opening—one scene with a shovel is a particular highlight—but as the film rushes to its conclusion, A Kind of Kidnapping loses itself in trying to be exciting instead of insightful.  

The final moments of A Kind of Kidnapping bring both welcome culminations to character arcs and unwelcome personality changes in characters that feel unearned. The performances remain strong, but as the characters become more confident in their situation and their places in the hierarchy, the film becomes less engaging. For the first half, it feels like each character is tip-toeing, too scared to test the boundaries of the group dynamic. Unfortunately, once the boundaries are broken, the latter half and ending fall flat. Character motivation loses reason, and the otherwise human moments give way to drama that rings hollow given what we’ve been told about the characters.  

The Verdict 

A Kind of Kidnapping cannot quite live up to its plot, but is still an impressive display of satire. Sharp infusions of political intrigue and commentary on the nature of publicity do not become diluted by the end, even if the film does not lean enough into this hook. A Kind of Kidnapping should be seen as a modern indictment on the state of the attention economy in relation to public political figures, even if the film would rather hold you hostage in a less interesting relationship drama instead. 

Words by James Evenden


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