Your Move, Luke Goss’s directoral debut, starts off as a traditional who-took-my-family thriller but then veers into revenge-torture territory. And while there are aspects to commend it, Goss – who also wrote and stars in the film – has spread himself rather too thin.
Goss is a decent actor, believable as a terrified father whose family has been taken. And he’s also determinedly steely in his eventual battle of wills with the kidnapper. But the screenplay doesn’t give his character enough depth, which even within a traditional revenge thriller framework would have made that descent into barbarism more interesting, and might have meant that the questions that torture should raise (do the ends justify the means? Can a torturer retain any moral high ground?) could be answered.
American family man David Miller (Luke Goss) is at home eating Chinese take-out, video-calling his wife Isabel (Patricia De Leon) and tween daughter Savanna (Laura Martin) a few days before joining them in Mexico.
As they chat a figure appears and Miller has no choice but to watch from thousands of miles away as his family are beaten and dragged off; though not before a final message is delivered to the screen from the kidnapper; he knows David’s name and this is clearly personal. It’s a well-shot, jarring, panicky scene.
Soon David is in Mexico trying to find out what has happened. Isabel is the daughter of a rich Mexican businessman; “a kidnapper’s dream” says Romero (Robert Davi), the slightly shambolic but tack-sharp detective in charge of the case. And despite his terror, David is reminded that at its heart a kidnapping is simply “a business transaction”. The Mexican police are certainly taking it seriously as forensics sweep and swab the apartment in white overalls and face masks under green lights.
Understandably typical police procedure is too slow for David, though refreshingly Mexican law enforcement isn’t portrayed as incompetent; if anything they’re too painstaking for him, and he starts his own investigation.
As David delves deeper it becomes clear that this is not business at all, but deeply personal for the kidnapper. And quite soon we find out who is responsible, and get glimpses of Isabel and Savanna’s plight: “Why are you afraid of me?” asks the attacker, his voice breaking, to young Savanna, terrified and locked in a cage, just after he’s told her that her parents don’t care.
Towards the end, as David tracks down the man responsible, the movie shifts gear and tone and becomes a battle of wills between two men. In some ways this is interesting: David chooses torture as a last, desperate measure to get the man to talk, and it’s quite tense, as he slowly ups the ante. It’s not long before having a cigarette stubbed out on his skin will be something the kidnapper will probably look back at with nostalgia as the pain only gets worse. I started to wonder what would be chopped off next.
And the torture itself doesn’t feel as exploitative as when Isabel faces her captor, which – while chilling – strays into using women’s terror as a device.
The man to man battle of wills is a traditional fallback though, and for David and the kidnapper (Alain Mora) by now it seems to be less about Isabel and Savanna, and more about obsession.
Goss is fine as an actor, but he’s let down by his own script. He has, though, assembled a pretty good supporting cast. Robert Davi’s Detective Romero is impressive, once you get past that introduction where he turns up in oversize suit, dishevelled tie and trilby hat just like, well, just like every other world-weary detective we’ve ever seen. Romero’s frustration with David’s interference, as he tries to explain to Miller how he needs to proceed to get any case to stick (“do you know what it takes to make a good case in this system?”), is certainly believable.
And Patricia De Leon manages to make Isabel more than just another tied-up woman screaming for her life.
Their captor is a mixed bag. His everyday office scenes are nowhere near as good as those with David or Isabel: his anguish as the physical pain kicks in from the torture is nicely mirrored by his (very misplaced) anguish that Isabel doesn’t love him.
Occasionally it is accidentally funny, particularly in the exposition. Before David met his wife she was a top class rider “winning gold at the Olympics”, says his sister-in-law Anna to David in the car as they drive through the streets, something he would have surely known. (To be fair, exposition is always hard to get right; apocalyptic movies have a head start on this as they can do spinning newspaper headlines about society’s collapse and a foreboding voiceover. Yes, I’ve been watching Reign Of Fire again).
There are also plotholes galore, and hints from the kidnapper’s past which are left hanging.
Your Move looks more like a TV series than a film, though there are some nifty camera tricks, particularly as David chases the kidnapper through the streets, that help compensate for the low budget. The lighting (scenes often seem to be bathed in dark green) is effective, and the crescendo of opera in the background as David turns torturer is, if not new, certainly works well.
As the VOD entertainment for an evening, Your Move will probably be appreciated by fans of family-in-peril stories. And I’m sure Goss has a legion of fans who will watch it, from his acting and from his Bros days in the 80s. (When I told a school mum at pick-up this afternoon that I’d seen this, without missing a beat she came back with an I Owe You Nothing gag. Admittedly I had to have it explained to me, but then I am the Oldest Mum In The Class and was more of a Duranie back in the day).
Watch the Your Move trailer: