Movie Review: “24 Days” is a lax, submissive French kidnapping thriller

24dThe French kidnapping thriller “24 Days” is a true story, an opening narration tells us (in French, with English subtitles), “all too true.”
It’s about the disappearance of a handsome young womanizer, nabbed by men in cahoots with a temptress who winked in his direction. It’s about police efforts to “manage” the kidnappers, to get the family on the same page — seizing the initiative in a way the improves the odds for getting their son back alive.
And it’s about this Jewish family’s inability to get the cops to let them go public and the police refusal to treat this as a hate crime.
Ilan (Syrus Shahidi) may have a girlfriend and a wandering eye. But he’d never be late for Shabbat. His sister (Alka Balbir) is the wrong one to call with the ransom demands. She goes into hysterics. Narrator Mom (Zabou Breitman) seems in shock. They’re not a rich family.
Her ex-husband (Pascal Elbé) may be poker-faced, but when he gets involved, he picks up the give-away buzzwords from the threatening, insulting calls. The family is Jewish, so of course “you have money.” If not, “ask the Jewish community.” The odd Islamic chant pops up. When the police get involved, they trace the calls — to the Ivory Coast.
But the police, led by Commandant Delcour (Jacques Gamblin) treat this like any other kidnapping. Their record is unblemished in these cases. They will get Ilan out and catch the perpetrators.
Any insults from the hothead leader of the kidnappers (Tony Harrisson? “Hang up.” There’s a police psychologist and others urging the family to “get the upper hand” in this “game.”
“We must keep to our strategy!”
Meanwhile, Ilan suffers and his family grieves that they will never see him again, because Islamists kidnapped him for being Jewish.
“24 Days” isn’t the tightest of thrillers, threading police work through the story of a family simmering with outrage at having their tragedy compounded by police insensitivity.
The performances are engrossing — especially Harrisson as the short-tempered African Muslim. But veteran director Alexandre Arcady (“Last Summer in Tangiers,” “Hold Up”) seems more concerned with the message and moral lesson here than with suspense. The result is a first act so short on details that we lose track of the victim, a second act that drags through kidnapping management by cops only to have the action pick up nicely in the overlong finale.
Perhaps the title lulled him into the lack of urgency for 90 of the 110 minutes of “24 Days.” Days are wasted by the cops, and precious screen minutes are wasted by the director before even attempting to ratchet up the suspense and tension.

MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, adult situations
Cast: Zabou Breitman, Pascal Elbé, Jacques Gamblin, Syrus Shahidi
Credits: Directed by Alexandre Arcady, written by Alexandre Arcady, Emilie Frèche and Antoine Lacomblez. A Menemsha Films release.

Running time: 1:50

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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