Directed by: Howard J Ford
Starring: Angela Dixon, Nigel Whitmey, Glen Salvage, Heather Peace, Rami Nasr, Velibor Topic, Sanita Simms
Following a bout of post-natal depression, Lisa Brennan is persuaded by her lover to take a trip with her newborn baby, to spend some time recovering and bonding with her daughter. She chooses to visit Marrakech, a place that was close to her deceased father's heart. Whilst relaxing on the beach, her baby is suddenly snatched by human traffickers. Now Lisa has a small window of opportunity to try and rescue her before losing her forever. However, the traffickers haven't counted on Lisa being a Secret Service agent with a "certain set of skills"... As Lisa tries to get close to her child, she begins to realise that not everything is as it seems...
Currently doing the festival circuit rounds (including a sold-out showing at this years Fright Fest in London), do not be surprised if you hear this film being referred to as a female version of Taken.
Angela Dixon gives a brilliant performance as Lisa Brennan. There are a lot of different surfaces to her character. When we first meet her, Lisa is withdrawn, in the midst of post-natal depression. However we slowly see her maternal bond to her daughter begin to kick in as they spend more time together. In the early scenes in Marrakech, Lisa seems quite vulnerable. A dodgy taxi ride for example has you more than a bit concerned for her safety. And then her baby is stolen. Its a great scene with some nice set-up, as Lisa is distracted by a street-seller. However after her initial panic, her training and experience take over.
One of the things I always enjoy seeing in films is a cocky badguy being taken down a peg of two because he's underestimated his opponent. What was supposed to be a straight-forward baby snatch soon turns into a nightmare for the three kidnappers, as Lisa is now like an enraged Mother Bear searching for her cub, and woe betide anyone who gets in her way.
Adding tension to the situation is the fact that the local police are a step behind and believe Lisa to be a danger in and of herself. They're not even sure if Lisa had a daughter to begin with. There's a great moment during Lisa's standoff with the police where the lead detective discovers her anti-depression medication, and Lisa starts to panic a little as she realises the conclusion he's about to jump to. Only a female officer is willing to believe her situation and tries to help her.
This is a film which celebrates the sisterhood of women in a country where femininity (or the western interpretation of it) is represssed. Its not by accident that the people willing to help Lisa are all women: her friend in the CIA who is willing to travel half across the world to help her, the afore mentioned female police officer, and Anina, hired by the kidnappers to look after the baby, but tries to help once she realises whose baby it is. The men are all sceptical of her story and her ability to help, much to their detriment. Even her lover, presidential candidate Clark Anderson, assumes that she went straight to the police rather than try to rescue her daughter by herself.
Never Let Go has a fair amount of action to it. A lot of that is taken up by Lisa evading police, running through narrow streets or across dusty roofs, but there are a number of fight scenes which all bar one are very decently done. I do need to talk about the one that doesn't work so well, as it could so easily have been the big set piece for the film. Lisa finds herself in a tense standoff with the police, and tells them in no uncertain terms that she will hurt anyone who tries to stop her from rescuing her child. This leads to four police officers closing in to handcuff her. Clearly, the production didn't have the time to choreograph a decent smack-down, and instead threw together some camera tricks and fast editing to try and get out of the corner they'd backed themselves into. However, Angela Dixon handles every bit of physical exertion the film throws at her and she is totally believable here as an older, experienced agent, very much the female counterpart to Liam Neeson's Brian Mills character in the Taken films, although perhaps a little more restrained!
The cosmopolitan cast work very well together. Its apparent that director Howard J Ford, co director of The Dead, has already proven he can get good performances from an international cast and does so here as well. Angela Dixon can join the likes of Pollyanna Mackintosh, Charlize Theron and Amanda Adrienne in the Action Heroine Hall of Fame.
One other thing missing from this film, is a classic "just how badass is she?" scene (a term coined by www.outlawvern.com). In most action films of this ilk, there will be a scene where either the bad guys or the local authorities will learn of the protagonist's background, and will list all of their accomplishments. Here the local cops never do find out who she really is, while we the audience only learn that her skills are missed by her previous employer because her replacements (note they replaced her with multiple people) didn't have her "edge"...
Storywise, the film has a "snatched from the headlines" element to it. Also featured in the film are an English couple whose son was snatched from their holiday apartment a few weeks earlier. They mention how the police focused their investigation on them, rather than trying to track the kidnappers. Listening to this, its hard not to think of the real life case of Madeleine McCann, a high profile abduction case which remains unsolved years later.
Never Let Go is a great action thriller with a very relatable female character. Angela Dixon can join the likes of Pollyanna Mackintosh, Charlize Theron and Amanda Adrienne in the Action Heroine Hall of Fame. Highly Recommended.
9 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
One nice element to the film for me was seeing a familiar name amongst the cast. Glenn Salvage plays Dmitri, the henchman to Vladislav. A few years back, Glenn co-starred in a couple of low budget British martial arts films, Underground (aka 12) and Left For Dead - two films which were among the first that I reviewed on our original website. Its great to see him now working on much bigger productions.