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Reckless (2014)

Dutch Angle

Reckless (originally titled Bloedlink) is a Dutch remake of the 2009 British thriller, The Disappearance of Alice Creed. I can't compare the two, as I've only seen the new version, but cinema is littered with kidnapping movies and bickering-crooks flicks. Neither fact hinders director Joram Lürsen and writer Frank Ketelaar's endeavor. In fact, it sets the stage for a Tarantino-esque, off-kilter analysis of the genre that mostly feels new.

Ex-cons Victor (Tygo Gernandt) and Rico (Marwan Kenzari) kidnap Laura (Sarah Chronis), the daughter of a real estate mogul. They plan to keep her tied up in a fortified apartment while Victor sorts out the ransom details. Of course, something goes wrong. A lot of somethings, actually, as characters cross, double-cross, and even quintuple-cross each other. Films like this live and die by spoilers, so I'll tread lightly.

Reckless is a process movie, which exists to painstakingly set up schemes, abruptly tear them down, and create drama from the characters' reactions as tiny pieces fall out of place. It helps that Rico (sneaky and well-intentioned as he is) is a moron, the walking definition of "liability". Victor is the brains of the operation, and it's not clear until half-way through the film why he even needs Rico--or how he could be so blind to the man's obvious shortcomings. That doesn't mean the we, the audience, are ahead of the game from frame one, though. The film opens with an elaborate and undeniably cool hideout setup, suggesting the work of stone-cold professionals whose undoing will come from external forces.

I don't use the phrase "undeniably cool" cavalierly. Reckless is, at times, hard to watch, especially when Victor and Rico chain a struggling Laura to a bed and strip her down. It's a fascinating scene that's worth revisiting after watching the film in its entirety; not for any lurid reasons, but to note how Lürsen subtly telegraphs future events through a deceptively non-exploitive use of camera and editing. He uses nudity (with male and female subjects) to evoke different emotions in the characters and, hopefully, the audience. He makes captors of us, unbound but unable to look away from the very necessary unpleasantness inherent to understanding where this kidnapping went wrong.

By all rights, Victor and Rico's plot should have been successful. But that pesky human element is always a coffee ring on pristine blueprints, isn't it? Early on, we learn so much about the villains just from the facial features peeking through their ski masks. Victor's eyes are pinpricks of cold light hovering over a robotic, barking mouth, while Rico's features are wishy-washy and clearly focused on other concerns--creating a sense of nervousness that's not necessarily founded in a moral quandary. As it turns out, the mask is the only thing keeping him together, emotionally, and its removal during the job opens the floodgates of chaos.

Reckless wobbles slightly when exploring the depths of Rico's passion-fueled stupidity. One scene in particular is so gob-smackingly ludicrous that the film temporarily slips into Sacha Baron Cohen territory. It's a necessary conduit to much better scenes, but the moment felt like a gap in the filmmakers' otherwise solid plan--a "Revisit Later" note in the script's margin that went unnoticed between drafts.

This minor hiccup aside, I really enjoyed Reckless. The performances are great all around, especially those of Gernandt and Chronis, who are tasked with gradually revealing aspects of their characters' personality without tipping their hands. Gernandt, in particular, has a turn that's so surprising as to warrant A) another look back at the film in its entirety and B) a whole movie about this guy's life in and out of prison. For her part, Chronis plays a woman who's just tough enough to survive a crazy forty-eight hours without magically becoming a superhero. She's cunning but believably vulnerable in situations that escalate from terrifying to terrifyingly stupid but no less dangerous. Again, I have no idea how Reckless stacks up (or doesn't stack up) to the film on which it is based. But Lürsen and Ketelaar's confidence, competence, and vision made for a surprisingly fresh viewing experience.