Kidnap and Ransom Captures Our Attention

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Trevor Eve plays corporate hostage negotiator Dominic King in the thumping snatch-and-rescue three-parter Kidnap and Ransom (Thursday, 9pm, ITV1). The recent death of a client means he can’t afford--emotionally or financially--to have another mission fail. So when female biologist Naomi Shaffer (Emma Fielding) is dragged from a taxi in South Africa, King is ready to do what it takes to get her back.

In real life, this would mean following the rules and getting your head down. But that would be dull, so our fictional negotiator decides to mix it up, just a little. When he talks to the kidnappers your heart will want to bust out of your chest. Their little phone chats are the conversational equivalent of King poking a hungry carnivore in the ribs. “Please,” you’ll think. “Play nice and put your ego away, Mr. King. There’s a good boy.” But if he did that you’d soon switch off.

Just to make sure King doesn’t get too comfortable, there’s also trouble at his castle. His wife Sophie (Natasha Little) wants him to quit so she can slip out of her role as supportive, nervous wife and have a career of her own. Meanwhile, his teenage daughter has taken to wearing a crucifix and lecturing him on faith. Troubling times for a controlling alpha male.

Kidnap and Ransom uses a detective procedural template, only they’ve stretched one case to fill three instalments. The first couple (and, I suspect, the third) are bustling with plot and hairy moments, helped along by a taut script. The introduction of John Hannah (an especially excellent villain) in episode two provides yet more intrigue, twists and moments when you’ll want to bite down on a cushion.

The weak link here is Helen Baxendale, who could use a hefty woodworm infestation to loosen her up. She plays King’s boss Angela but the woman simply cannot act: she just stares with her beady woodland creature eyes and ups the pitch of her voice to a shrill whine whenever the script needs her to be superior or upset. While it’s unusual for a macho drama to reserve more than one good role for a woman (there are three in Kidnap and Ransom), it’s a barbed gesture when one of them goes to Baxendale. Still, she’s not in it enough to spoil it and the rest of the cast gel well. And if it goes to a second series, might I suggest that writer Patrick Harbinson dreams up some vicious kidnappers to snatch and off Angela.

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