Towards Darkness

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Peace Arch Entertainment

The passion of Antonio Negret's debut feature about a kidnapping in Colombia is understandable considering that no less than three members of the filmmaker's own family suffered the same ordeal. But for all its intensity and sense of purpose, "Towards Darkness" suffers from an overly cluttered narrative and too-hyperkinetic style. Executive produced by America Ferrera, who also appears, the film squanders the considerable dramatic potential of its subject matter.

The story line centers on the abduction of Jose (Roberto Urbina), a young photographer who returns to his native country to visit his family after moving to New York. During a reunion with his former girlfriend (Ferrera), he's suddenly kidnapped by a gang led by a Colombian warlord, who demands $1 million for his safe return.

Eschewing police involvement, Jose's frantic parents desperately try to make arrangements to pay the ransom even while enlisting the services of a private security team whose members include a former CIA agent (David Sutcliffe) with a tragic backstory.

The writer-director needlessly convolutes the proceedings with a nonlinear structure that proves more distracting than illuminating. And his attempts to infuse intensity into the story via numerous protracted action and chase sequences feel forced, more suitable to a generic action movie (like the similarly themed "Man on Fire") or an episode of "24" than a serious examination of the subject matter.

Considering, as an onscreen title informs us, that someone is kidnapped in Colombia every three hours, there's no small sense of urgency and relevance to what's depicted onscreen. But for all its good intentions and slickness of execution, "Darkness" lacks the necessary gravitas to provide significant emotional resonance.
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