Ethics & Public Policy Center

Excess Baggage

Published in EPPC Online on September 1, 1997



Excess Baggage, directed by Marco Brambilla but under the creative control of Alicia Silverstone stars the rather pudgy Miss Silverstone as Emily Hope, a poor little rich girl, always getting into trouble, who stages her own kidnapping so that her brute of a father, who is a shady businessman in Seattle who is not overeager to get involved with the police, will take some notice of her. “I wanted to make my father feel,” she says in an unsuccessful attempt to account for her actions. “How am I supposed to explain 18 years of feeling unwanted and unwelcome?” It is a question she might well have asked herself before making this film.

But as she is lying in the trunk of her BMW, bound by her own hand, waiting for rescue, the car is stolen by a car thief called Vincent (Benicio Del Toro). Since it is the movies, it is entirely predictable that the thief is a decent sort who doesn’t want to hurt anyone and can only think of how to get this girl out of the garage where all his stolen cars are kept and back to her family unharmed. A natural trouble maker, however, Emily manages to set the place on fire with a cigarette and get her captor/rescuer in trouble not only with the law, who are looking for her kidnapper, but with his colleagues in the hot car business, who didn’t bank on their cars becoming as hot as this.

Vincent’s plan is to drive her a long way out of the city and drop her by the side of the road, but the plans change when he sees a TV news report about the burning of his garage and the fact that her car was found among the ruins. He drives back to pick her up again, desperate that she should exculpate him. He begs her first to get back in the car with him and then to call her father to tell him that she is all rght, but instead she begins the conversation by suggesting that he is not only a kidnapper but a child molester. And now he can’t leave her because she handcuffs herself to his precious Aston Martin.

Meanwhile, the two of them are being pursued by (1) the police, (2) Vincent’s partners in the car-theft ring who think he has absconded with $200,000 of their money and torched his own garage and (3) her father’s “business” associate and fixer who calls himself “Uncle Ray” (Christopher Walken). Ray, of course, is far more efficient than the police and tracks down the two of them. Since it is the movies, however, we are not surprised, that by the time that Uncle Ray catches up with them, Emily has grown rather sweet on Vincent. She refuses to allow Uncle Ray to pin the kidnapping on him, as is his plan. They escape from Uncle Ray together and enjoy a night of love before the bad car thieves catch up with them.

Since it is the movies, you can probably guess what happens next. It is enough to say that Uncle Ray, a very scary character, decides that Vincent is all right after all. Though her dreadful father refuses to pay a second ransom, it’s OK because now she’s got another crook to take care of her. It’s a heartwarming story, of course, but one of those where you can’t help wondering just how long Vincent, whose ambition it is to open a chain of karaoke bars in Brazil, will be sticking around. A good thing he’s a good thief or we might fear for the lovely Emily’s happily-ever-after.

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