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A class act in the thriller crowd

Moody `Kidnapped' on NBC weaves many story lines around the abduction of a socialite's son.

September 20, 2006|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

"Kidnapped," a new thriller on NBC, is like "The Nine," a new thriller on ABC: It means to hook you by beginning with a spectacular event of violence before traveling in all sorts of directions at once, creating a puzzle around the loose theme of deception, self-told and inflicted on others, until you feel you need to storyboard the thing to stay up to speed.

There's also "Vanished," a similarly themed new series on Fox involving the disappearance of a senator's wife, but "Kidnapped" is easily better. The spectacular event here is the abduction of a socialite's son, presumably for a hefty ransom, though little, it turns out, is exactly as it seems.

In this way "Kidnapped" is stylishly executed TV brain food, a little too moody for its own good but otherwise fine pulp. It stars Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany as Conrad and Ellie Cain, whose son Leopold (Will Denton) is nabbed in a coordinated attack on the SUV bearing him to prep school; his bodyguard Virgil (Mykelti Williamson) is seriously injured.

That's the appetizer; the main course arrives in the form of Jeremy Sisto, playing Knapp, a shadowy expert in the retrieval of kidnap victims who's hired by the Cains to recover their son. "From nothing comes nothing," he tells the Cains in their first meeting, explaining that if he doesn't bring back Leopold "intact" they don't pay him.

Sisto, who was irrefutable in "Six Feet Under" as Brenda's unhinged, self-absorbed and much-medicated brother, brings a kind of greasy sobriety to this role; I was quite certain, if one were to be in the same room with Knapp, that he might smell from lack of showering.

On the other hand there is also Delroy Lindo classing up the joint, playing FBI agent Latimer King, who is chasing after both Knapp and the missing kid, dragged back from imminent retirement into one more case.

There's well-worn convention in the cat-and-mouse between Knapp, the eccentric hired gun, and King, representing the feds, but the acting here makes you forgive it. It's not just the stars, either; "Kidnapped," shot in New York, has the feel of a "Law & Order" or "Sopranos," with roles that might otherwise be filler going to performers who, in their little scenes, convey pathos (i.e. Michael Mosley, playing a newbie agent).

In a show like this, at a time like this, the story, the "trust no one" foreshadowing, is ultimately the star. But "Kidnapped" collaborators Jason Smilovic, the creator, and Michael Dinner, executive producer-director, tip you off that they're also looking for character.

It's in details -- the way, for instance, the Cain family conveys its class status by speaking French to one another when a stranger is present.

As things pick up speed in the second hour (Day 3, in the timeline of the kidnapping) and build to the kind of standoff that will inevitably punctuate each episode, there is a scene in a bar involving Sisto, Lindo and Mosley, the two vets praising the rookie for his action in the field that day. It's actually a scene about the giving of mutual support, and it doesn't come off as hokum. "To our ships at sea," Knapp says, raising his whiskey, as the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" plays.

There is action all over the place in "Kidnapped," but it's a scene like this -- quieter and even refined -- that conveys the sense that you're in capable hands.



Where: NBC

When: 10 to 11 tonight

Rating: TV-14 V (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisory for violence)

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