A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kidnapping Stella is a 2019 German thriller in which two men abduct a wealthy young woman off the street and hold her for ransom. For much of the movie, the woman, Stella, is tied to a bed and gagged. When first tied to the bed, the men who kidnapped her snip off her clothes with scissors while she screams, before putting her in a red tracksuit. One of the assailants, while making a video to be sent to Stella's father, uses bolt cutters and threatens to cut off Stella's finger if he doesn't pay the ransom. In another scene, one of the assailants sits in her bed and silently moves his hands as if he's going to fondle her breasts. Characters shot and killed. Fighting with punches and kicks. Brief, nonsexual nudity: female buttocks. Infrequent profanity, including "f--k" and "s--t." Cigarette smoking. This is a remake of the 2009 British thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed.
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What's the story?
Two ex-cons, Vic and Tom, have planned in great detail the abduction of Stella, a wealthy young woman, in the hopes of extorting her wealthy father for a ransom in the millions. In masks, they kidnap her off the street in an industrial zone, throw her in the back of their stolen van, and take her to a dilapidated apartment high-rise. In one of the apartments, Stella is taken into a soundproofed bedroom, tied to the bed, and gagged. While their plan is detailed and seemingly foolproof, Vic and Tom soon find that it won't be as simple as they had hoped. Stella's father initially refuses to pay the ransom. Tom seems to be losing his nerve. Vic grows increasingly suspicious of Tom. And there's more to Stella than what Tom had initially told Vic when the two planned the kidnapping while still in prison. As more information is revealed and the three move ever closer to exchanging Stella for the millions in cash, Stella must find a way to use what little leverage she has to turn Vic and Tom against each other, and not get hurt or even killed in the process.
Is it any good?
This is an engaging thriller, even as you have the feeling that so much of this has been done before. Kidnapping Stella begins with the shopworn montage of the bad guys buying then installing all the equipment they need to pull off their crime. Then, a step-by-step of how the abduction of the titular character is undertaken. There's the "alpha" bad guy and the bad guy who seems like he's getting cold feet. The severing, or threat of severing -- in this case, with bolt cutters -- of a body part in order to prove to the rich person being extorted that the bad guys mean business. The expected problems that poke holes in the seemingly foolproof plan.
And yet, there are some twists to the story that work. The film's basic minimalist structure of three characters and sparse dialogue heightens what suspense emerges out of all these thriller tropes. The acting of the three performers reveals a nuance that grows in complexity as more information is revealed about their relationships and back stories. It doesn't break any new ground, but the film's final moments are completely riveting. Overall, Kidnapping Stella is a decent, if not particularly original, thriller.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about thrillers. How does Kidnapping Stella use violence, or the threat of violence, to create suspense?
Does this movie glorify violence or the planning of elaborate crimes? Why or why not?
Is the lead female character presented in a degrading manner, or is she shown as someone capable of fighting back?
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