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Vehicular Kidnapping

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A van pulls up and mooks swarm out and snatch someone.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Unsung on Jan 3rd 2019 at 7:22:34 PM
Last Edited By:
Unsung on Jan 20th 2019 at 8:18:33 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

We've all seen it before: a van drives up and skids to a sudden stop in the middle of the street. A bunch of Faceless Goons in black sweaters and balaclavas pile out the side and grab someone (usually a businessman, politician, top scientist or engineer, or just The Hero), stuff them in the back, then drive off.

The kidnappers will throw a Bag of Kidnapping over the target's head if they have no intention of speaking them until they reach their destination, or employ Instant Sedation or a simple Tap on the Head if they really don't want to talk. Alternatively, a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown or Cold-Blooded Torture will sometimes ensue as soon as the door slams shut, possibly as a form of enhanced interrogation, after which the ringleader, if present, usually follows up with a Motive Rant, an attempt to Break Them by Talking, or just an offhand mention that it would be a Shame If Something Happened to the the kidnappee and their loved ones should they fail to cooperate. After learning what they wanted to know or saying what they wanted to say, the victim's captors may simply dump them out in the middle of the road and speed away.

This doesn't have to be a van, but not many other vehicles combine the same degree of interior space and outward anonymity. The number of goons can also vary, though it's difficult for one person to do this when they also have to drive the van. While the victim is usually right out on the sidewalk, sometimes the kidnappers will enter or break into a building to grab their targets. A common variant is for kidnappers to ambush their target right by the exit of a building, possibly holding them at gunpoint or shocking them with Stun Guns, then briskly escorting them to a van waiting just outside, thus limiting their exposure.

Part of the trope is a certain Refuge in Audacity — people aren't expecting to be kidnapped in broad daylight in front of witnesses, the latter of which may be restrained, sedated, or even killed. The van provides the element of surprise and helps the kidnappers disappear after the attack, but during the abduction stealth tends to be a secondary concern to speed and taking the target and any protection they may have off guard.

Common among Human Traffickers. Compare and contrast Van in Black for suspicious vans in general or Spies in a Van for when the viewpoint is that of the police surveillance or espionage team inside the van. May sometimes occur when dealing with a Creepy Van, though that typically involves a very different kind of kidnapper (usually a lone stalker or Serial Killer) who generally prefers to take their victims quietly and drag them back to the van after the fact, or else lure in kids with candy.

Examples

    open/close all folders 
    Advertising 
  • A commercial for Volkswagen had a man walking to his new Passat when a van pulls up behind him, some men jump out, and they kidnap him. A few seconds later, they return and drop him off. The announcer then says "The new Passat. It only looks expensive."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Played for Laughs in the live-action trailer of Pop Team Epic anime, in which a foreign guy is interviewed about anime and his tastes on it, with giant corporeals of Popuko and Pipimi watches him inside a white van behind him, and later outside the van and behind him. In the end, when he's asked for the anime of the season he would like to watch, the guy answers "Basilisk". After that, both Popuko and Pipimi kidnaps the guy (while he asks for help) and put him into the van.

    Film 
  • Wyatt Frame from Josie and the Pussycats discovers a cynical girl in the record store that seems immune to Mega Records' brainwashing. Wyatt none too subtly intones "Smells like teen spirit" into his jacket sleeve. Moments later, an overhead door flies open, the cynical girl gets grabbed by nameless mooks and tossed into a waiting van, and is then driven away. She's never seen or heard from again in the film.
  • In the film adaptation of Thank You for Smoking, Nick Naylor is grabbed and stuffed in the back of a van by masked men who turn out to be anti-tobacco lobbyists. They cover him in nicotine patches with the intent of inflicting a Karmic Death by overdose — which Nick miraculously survives through the tolerance built up during a lifetime of smoking.
  • Played for Laughs in Old School. Frank is going around gathering old alumni from his school, in most cases just telling them to get into the van. In one person's case, Frank rolls up and abducts the man right in front of his wife as they are carrying groceries out to their car at a market. Frank threatens the terrified wife that he will kill her if she says anything about the abduction, but immediately drops the act and reassures her that her husband will be home in time for dinner.
  • A variant shows up in The Siege. A man suspected of being part of a terrorist ring is running from two FBI agents and seems to have gotten away when suddenly a van with an open sliding door drives up right next to the suspect, and what had seemed to be an Innocent Bystander on the street shoves the suspect into the van through the open door and then jumps into the van as well just before it speeds away. Although shocked at seeing the guy they were chasing kidnapped by unknown people, at least one of the agents can't help but admire the skill with which it was done.
    Agent Haddad: You gotta love that move.
  • In Spy Game, there's a brief few-second clip showing Elizabeth as the victim of one of these by the Chinese, who want her for bombing their embassy in the UK. It comes as Muir explains to his superiors it was he who sold her out to them, ostensibly in exchange for the release of an American agent but also to remove her as a distraction from his protege Bishop. Her capture prompts Bishop to go after her, resulting in his own capture and setting off the present-day plot of the movie with the CIA calling Muir (ostensibly) for advice.
  • In The Dark Tower (2017), while the Man in Black traps Roland in a standoff, his Mooks pull up in a van outside and drag Jake away as he tries to flee the scene.

    Literature 
  • Older than the internal combustion engine: In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Red Circle", the client's husband is kidnapped in this fashion by a horse-drawn cab, but is released when the kidnappers realize they've got the wrong man.
  • From the Whateley Universe, in the first Ayla story, when she gets kidnapped:
    Ayla: What I do know is that Dr. Hammond stepped out from behind a partition and drugged me again. This time I got a needle in the neck, and I was wobbly in a matter of seconds. Hammond and Uncle Theo and Andrews picked me up, while I just got more and more dazed. They whisked me out of the room while Dad's bodyguards restrained Gracie and Janet. Of course, Gracie and Janet were totally outnumbered, and didn't have a chance. The only one who had a chance was me, and I passed out before I was in the back of that black van they were moving me into...

    Live-Action TV 
  • On House of Cards (US), political "fixer" Doug Stamper is assigned the task of cleaning up the Rachael Posner loose end. He resolves the issue by kidnapping her in a van, driving her out into the middle of nowhere and murdering her.
  • The first episode of Daredevil (2015) ends with a little boy being pulled from his father's car and dragged off by the Russians. Getting him back kicks off the plot of the second episode.
  • The villains of the Midnight Caller episode "With Malice Towards One" drive a windowless blue van. They use it to kidnap Billy and beat him almost to death, and later to try to run Jack down.
  • On the NCIS: New Orleans episode "Tick Tock", Pride is out jogging when he's nabbed by masked men in broad daylight, who turns out to be contractors working for Apollyon, a private intelligence unit contracted by anyone who can afford their services.
  • On Lucifer (2016), one Body of the Week is dragged into a van by kidnappers before his death. This horrifies the kidnappers, who turn out to be paid pranksters who make a business out of staging abductions and didn't know that their client had died afterwards. Lucifer himself pays to be "kidnapped" in this way so he can talk to the employees.

    Tabletop Games 

Feedback: 39 replies

Jan 3rd 2019 at 8:45:31 PM

Maybe combined with Creepy Van?

Jan 3rd 2019 at 9:03:50 PM

Well, I made this draft because of the discussion on the Creepy Van thread. This doesn't really seem that similar tonally, it plays out almost exactly the same way every time, and there are a lot of examples of both. It seems to make more sense to split them off right off the bat.

Jan 3rd 2019 at 9:42:31 PM

  • Older than the internal combustion engine: In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Red Circle", a man is kidnapped in this fashion by a horse-drawn cab, but is released when the kidnappers realize it's the wrong man.
  • Warhammer 40 K: Dark Eldar skimmers are equipped with nets and dangling hooks so they can snatch victims without stopping.

Jan 4th 2019 at 8:32:52 AM

Cheers, thanks. The Sherlock Holmes example definitely counts, might like to incorporate that bit about being older than the combustion engine into the main description if that's alright with you? The Dark Eldar one I'm not as sure about — openly hunting from a vehicle at once seems different in tone, but then again Human Traffickers do definitely engage in this trope, so I've added it for now.

Jan 4th 2019 at 8:04:41 AM

Anime and Manga:

  • Playd For Laughs in the live-action trailer of Pop Team Epic anime, in which a foreign guy is interviewed about anime and his tastes on it, with giant corporeals of Popuko and Pipimi watches him inside a white van behind him, and later outside the van and behind him. In the end, when he's asked for the anime of the season he would like to watch, the guy answers "Basilisk". After that, both Popuko and Pipimi kidnaps the guy (while he asks for help) and put him into the van.

Jan 4th 2019 at 8:34:52 AM

Nice. I'd never heard corporeal used for that kind of mascot suit. Added.

Jan 5th 2019 at 9:52:08 AM

Literature.Whateley Universe: From the first Ayla story, when she gets kidnapped:

What I do know is that Dr. Hammond stepped out from behind a partition and drugged me again. This time I got a needle in the neck, and I was wobbly in a matter of seconds. Hammond and Uncle Theo and Andrews picked me up, while I just got more and more dazed. They whisked me out of the room while Dads bodyguards restrained Gracie and Janet. Of course, Gracie and Janet were totally outnumbered, and didnt have a chance. The only one who had a chance was me, and I passed out before I was in the back of that black van they were moving me into

Jan 5th 2019 at 10:03:19 AM

Added. Is the Whateley universe Literature now or Web Original?

Jan 5th 2019 at 12:32:25 PM

Literature. All Web Serial Novels go in Literature.

See genre page for source.

Jan 5th 2019 at 12:45:56 PM

That's fine, I just know it used to be under Web Original (and still is on some pages) and it still says Web Original on the works page.

Jan 5th 2019 at 2:01:43 PM

OH! Thanks for notifying me... Fixing...

Jan 5th 2019 at 4:51:25 PM

Just to make it clear: this describes a scene, right?

Jan 5th 2019 at 4:53:46 PM

^ - You talking about the trope, or my example?

Jan 5th 2019 at 5:40:15 PM

Call this one "Vehicular Kidnapping", maybe? I agree that it's splittable from the Creepy Van draft, but I also think it's broader than just vans. The idea is that a sufficiently inconspicuous vehicle can be disguise, holding cell, and escape vehicle all in one.

That said, if that's what the trope is going for, I don't think that the Whateley Universe example fits, since it sounds like they drugged the person inside a building and then just used a van as an getaway car, rather than rolling up to the target on the street and hauling them into the van as the trope describes.

Jan 5th 2019 at 5:53:50 PM

I think it's more about the event, the way the kidnapping occurs, than the vehicle being used or the number of kidnappers, how they look, why they're doing it, etc. I do think the Creepy Van kidnapper could do this, it's just that it's fairly obvious and they usually want to keep a low profile.

Vehicular Kidnapping works for me. The Whateley Universe example I'm willing to hear arguments either way. Same goes for the Dark Eldar one.

Jan 5th 2019 at 7:51:47 PM

^^ - You're right in what my example depicts.

The kidnapping was sudden, but Sudden Kidnapping isn't really a trope, but more how kidnappings usually are?

Then again, there's the less struggling, "lure into a van" technique, instead of a rapid grab?

Jan 6th 2019 at 7:29:30 AM

At the moment I'm inclined to say that it still counts. The victim was unconscious, but it was still a bunch of goons grabbing someone by force, heedless of witnesses — they physically restrained her bodyguards — and stuffing her into a van. The anonymity of the vehicle is useful before the grab, and again once they leave the scene, but that's covered by the related tropes (Van In Black, Creepy Van), because the kidnapping itself in these cases tends not to be very subtle. Speed and surprise are the main thing. I'll work that into the description.

Jan 8th 2019 at 9:38:33 AM

All good with the name? Any thoughts on the Whateley Universe or Dark Eldar examples?

Jan 8th 2019 at 10:46:46 AM

So, this is "Kidnappers use a vehicle, to store the victim, for the narrative-ish reason that it allows a quick escape"?

And so, contrast it with things like the James Bulger kidnapping / murder, and stuff, where there is no getaway vehicle, but just walked off?

Jan 8th 2019 at 11:01:39 AM

  • Played For Laughs in Old School. Frank is going around gathering old alumni from his school, in most cases just telling them to get into the van. In one person's case, Frank rolls up and abducts the man right in front of his wife as they are carrying groceries out to their car at a market. Frank threatens the terrified wife that he will kill her if she says anything about the abduction, but immediately drops the act and reassures her that her husband will be home in time for dinner.

Jan 8th 2019 at 11:06:13 AM

  • A variant shows up in The Siege. A man suspected of being part of a terrorist ring is running from two FBI agents and seems to have gotten away when suddenly a van with an open sliding door drives up right next to the suspect, and what had seemed to be an Innocent Bystander on the street shoves the suspect into the van through the open door and then jumps into the van as well just before it speeds away. Although shocked at seeing the guy they were chasing kidnapped by unknown people, at least one of the agents can't help but admire the skill with which it was done.
    Agent Haddad: You gotta love that move.

Jan 8th 2019 at 11:35:35 AM

^^^ Pretty much. The van is by far the most common, and the important part is the brazenness of the kidnapping. Would you say that was clearer with the previous name (Thrown In The Back Of A Van)?

Added and added.

Jan 8th 2019 at 11:39:53 AM

It's a more general title, but still accurate, title, which I like, and it's more concise, too.

Jan 8th 2019 at 4:11:43 PM

Vehicular Kidnapping is more accurately broad, and shorter, too.

Jan 8th 2019 at 6:48:13 PM

Yeah, ok. I was just tossing a suggestion.

Let's see.. I've seen this trope happen in American Dad a few times, but I can't think of any particulars right now.

Jan 11th 2019 at 5:56:21 AM

In NCIS: New Orleans in the episode "Tick Tock", Pride was jogging when he was nabbed by masked men in broad light, who turns out to be contractors working for Appollyon, a private intelligence unit contracted by anyone who can afford their services.

Jan 11th 2019 at 7:05:54 AM

In Spy Game, there's a brief few-second clip showing Elizabeth as the victim of one of these by the Chinese, who want her for bombing their embassy in the UK. It comes as Muir explains to his superiors it was he who sold her out to them, ostensibly in exchange for the release of an American agent but also to remove her as a distraction from his protege Bishop. Her capture prompts Bishop to go after her, resulting in his own capture and setting off the present-day plot of the movie with the CIA calling Muir (ostensibly) for advice.

Jan 11th 2019 at 8:45:42 AM

I like Vehicular Kidnapping for the name.

Jan 11th 2019 at 11:10:54 AM

  • The Dark Tower 2017: While the Man in Black traps Roland in a standoff, his Mooks pull up in a van outside and drag Jake away as he tries to flee the scene.
  • Lucifer 2016: One Body Of The Week was dragged into a van by kidnappers before his death. This horrifies the kidnappers, who turn out to be paid pranksters who make a business out of staging abductions and didn't know that their client had died afterwards. Lucifer himself pays to be "kidnapped" in this way so he can talk to the employees.

Jan 14th 2019 at 1:26:19 PM

Added, added, added and added. I think we'll aim to launch this weekend, say Sunday night, if nothing else comes up.

Jan 14th 2019 at 4:50:03 PM

Would this also qualify if say the bad guy jacks a car from somebody and drives off while at least one other person that was in the car is still in the car (whether intentional or not). If so, Grand Theft Auto allows players to do that. Although the person in the car with you will get out the moment you slow down or crash, as long as they are still alive though.

Jan 14th 2019 at 7:24:49 PM

I'd say carjacking deserves its own trope, and this is more about intentional kidnapping? We have High Speed Hijack and Flashed Badge Hijack, but I can't see if we have anything specifically for when the carjacker grabs someone and pulls them out the driver's seat. That seems tropable if we don't.

Any image or page quote suggestions? Thoughts on additional indexes?

Jan 14th 2019 at 7:23:52 PM

In {{Terminator 3 Rise Of The Machines, the T-850 throws Kate into the back of a van after the T-X comes for her and John.

Im not entirely sure it counts but from her perspective it was a kidnap...Ill let you decide.

Jan 14th 2019 at 7:37:00 PM

It's been too long since I've seen it. It sounds like it could fit, and I think if if looked like this trope and she thought was a kidnapping, that's probably good enough. Anyone else know the scene in question?

Jan 14th 2019 at 10:34:14 PM

Yeah. Carjack somebody out of their car would definitely be tropable. Of course, I was also asking about when there are other people in said car being jacked. The driver is removed, but the jacker takes off with the other people still in the car. In any case, I did think of an example that could qualify.

  • Saints Row 2: After Jessica forces the boss to Mercy Kill Carlos, the boss captures her at a bank, puts her in the trunk of a car, and brings said car to and demolition expo, where the Boss parks the car in a spot where Maero runs it over, killing Jessica.

Jan 14th 2019 at 11:39:09 PM

Right, I was saying that I think that for this trope, I was originally thinking that the character needs to be targeted deliberately and forced into the vehicle. We actually have another trope for that example, too — Punk In The Trunk, where it's already listed. I'll add a link to the description, though. But on both counts, maybe the current title is actually too broad? Or should this be the supertrope?

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