Agency was not the only Canadian film to be made about American politics in 1980. There was also The Kidnapping of the President, a low-budget political thriller that, because it has since slipped into the public domain, can currently be found in a few dozen DVD box sets. In fact, you may very well own a copy of The Kidnapping of the President without even realizing it!
Don’t worry if you do. The Kidnapping of the President is a fairly harmless little film.
U.S. President Adam Scott (Hal Holbrook) is visiting Toronto when he gets handcuffed to a South American revolutionary named Roberto Assanti (Miguel Fernandes). Assanti locks President Scott in an armored car that is wired with explosives and then demands a hundred million in diamonds and two planes. (Though the film never explicitly states it, I imagine that Assanti was primarily motivated by jealousy over the fact that Che is on a million t-shirts while Assanti remains fairly unknown.) It’s up to secret service agent Jerry O’Connor (William Shatner) to negotiate with Assanti and rescue the President! Meanwhile, the ethically compromised Vice President (Van Johnson) is left as acting President in Washington and struggles to keep things calm while his ambitious wife (Ava Gardner) plots for a brighter future.
Overall, the Kidnapping of the President is okay for what it is. It’s neither exceptionally good nor memorably bad. It just sort of is. Hal Holbrook is always well-cast as a President and William Shatner gives a typical Shatner performance, which is either a good or a bad thing depending on how you feel about William Shatner. And, for that matter, Miguel Fernandes is a properly unlikable villain though he never really seems to have the charisma necessary to make him believable as the dynamic leader that he’s supposed to be.
Probably the most interesting thing about The Kidnapping of the President is that it doesn’t try to pass Montreal off for being a location in the United States. Instead, the film was not only filmed in but is actually set in Toronto as well. When Jerry attempts to deal with the local authorities, that means that he ends up talking to a bunch of very polite men in red uniforms.
But what’s strange about this is that the people of Toronto are so excited about the arrival of the President. You half expect to hear one extra say, “I never thought I’d live long enough to see the day that a leader that I can’t vote for and who has next to nothing to do with my everyday life would come to visit Toronto.”
Don’t get me wrong. If you follow me on twitter, then you know that I am unashamed to declare my love for all things Canadian. And obviously, as neighbors, Canada and the United States do have a close relationship. But would people in Toronto really be that excited to see the President?
If so, I think we really owe the people of Canada an apology for not knowing more about their government. At the very least, we should definitely invite Stephen Harper over for lunch.