Movie review: ‘Daylight’

“Daylight” takes a standard kidnapping plot and turns it inside out. Director David Barker and his formidable stars, Alexandra Meierhans and Michael Godere, have written a script that concentrates on fleshed-out characterizations, leaves audiences to connect the dots and demolishes genre clichés. Replete with superior acting and visual splendor, the film is a fine instance of the overly familiar made fresh.

Meierhans’ Irene is in the late stages of pregnancy, yet her husband, Daniel (Aidan Redmond), insists she get out of bed to attend a wedding. As they’re driving through gorgeous scenery, Daniel stops to ask directions of a hitchhiker, Renny (Godere); lurking nearby are his cohorts Leo (Ivan Martin) and Murphy (Kendrick Strauch). Murphy soon drags off Daniel, who assures him he can pay a $300,000 ransom.

Renny and Leo are capable of almost amusingly thoughtful good manners but are also desperate, dangerous men who are most likely amateur criminals — the film could actually be read as a comment on the dire economy. In an understated virtuoso portrayal, Meierhans renders Irene alternately sensual and spiritual in confronting extreme danger. Renny and Leo are at all times potential killers, but that they are also recognizably human makes them — and “Daylight” itself — compelling when it could easily have been repellent.

“Daylight.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.