Yvan Attal in "Rapt"

Sometimes a title tells you everything you need to know about a film. There’s little mystery, for example, when you pop Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster into your DVD player. You are going to see Godzilla fight the Smog Monster (or, as he was originally known in Japan, Hedora), and (spoilers) Godzilla is probably going to win.

Rapt, a recent French thriller opening this coming Friday, July 22nd at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, has a similarly straightforward title. If you speak French, you know that rapt is the Gallic equivalent of the English word abduction. If you don’t speak French, the word rapt suggests that what you are about to see is going to capture and keep your attention. The film’s denouement, however, is a little less predictable than that of your average Godzilla flick.

Israeli born actor Yvan Attal (who looks more than a bit like a youthful Al Pacino) stars as Stan Graff, a high-powered industrialist worth a considerable sum of money. Stan has it all: a loving family, close ties to the President of France, a mistress or three, a secret love nest — and some serious gambling debts.

One thing he doesn’t have, however, is a security entourage, and the easy mark finds his commute interrupted one morning by a gang of kidnappers. Stan’s abductors aim high: they want 50,000,000 Euros in exchange for his safe release. They’re not fooling around, sending his middle finger as proof that they mean business, with the suggestion that further body parts may follow if payment is not received tout de suite.

Upon getting the finger, Stan’s family quickly decide to ante up. But there’s a problem: unbeknown to them, he’s frittered away a considerable portion of the family fortune playing cards, and his board of directors is far from eager to take a chunk out of the bottom line just to get the boss back.

The bargaining begins: how much can the family pay, how much will the company lend them, and how will the kidnappers react to the news that their golden goose is actually only ‘worth’ a mere 20 million? Most importantly, will the revelations of Stan’s misdeeds permanently tarnish his firm’s public image and damage its cozy relationship with the government?

Written and directed by Lucas Belvaux (who based the story on a similar 1978 kidnapping case), Rapt is an old-fashioned thriller in the style of the policiers of the 1960s and ’70s. Such films frequently featured Alain Delon and Lino Ventura, and it’s easy to imagine Delon playing Rapt’s handsome playboy victim, while the actor who plays Police Inspector Paoli, Michel Voita, looks quite a bit like Ventura. Perhaps that’s simple coincidence, but it does lend the film a certain je ne sais quoi.

Intelligently written, superbly acted, and beautifully shot in widescreen by cinematographer Pierre Milon, Rapt is getting a belated American release (it opened in France in late 2009). Better late than never, of course, but one suspects its release has something to do with a threatened Anglophone remake, currently mooted for release in 2014. (Perhaps the right to remake Rapt hinged on the original film getting screened in U.S. cinemas.)

But why wait three years for what will almost certainly be an inferior product? Hurry down to the Shattuck this weekend for one of the most satisfying thrillers of recent vintage.

John Seal writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly.

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Freelancer John Seal is Berkeleyside’s film critic. A movie connoisseur with a penchant for natty hats who lives in Oakland, John writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as...