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Vehicular Kidnapping

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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 with them until they reach their destination, or else 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.

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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.

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Common among Human Traffickers. Compare and contrast Van in Black for suspicious vans in general, Spies in a Van for when the viewpoint is that of the police surveillance or espionage team inside the van, or Punk in the Trunk for less spacious kidnapping accommodations. May sometimes occur when dealing with a Creepy Stalker 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:

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    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 kidnap the guy, crowding him back into the van as he calls out for help.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Children of Men. Due to the widespread apathy of a society facing the extinction of humanity, when Theo is kidnapped off the street in broad daylight by masked gunmen working for the radical Fishes, people don't even stop to look.
  • 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.
  • Occurs at the beginning of Get Out! as a black man is stuffed into a car after getting lost in a surburban neighborhood. He later appears as a brainwashed victim of Chris' prospective in-laws, having had his mind almost totally replaced with that of an old white woman's husband.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

    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 
  • In CSI: Miami, Ryan's car is tampered with so that he's forced to pull over to the side of the road. A van then pulls up next to him and a man comes out to knock him unconscious with a Tap on the Head. Despite it happening on a busy road while the sun's out, no-one seems to pay attention to what's happening. After Ryan spends a night being tortured and blackmailed into working for the men, the van then pulls up to his apartment and dumps him outside of it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 been killed afterwards. Lucifer himself pays to be "kidnapped" in this way so he can talk to the employees.
  • 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.
  • NCIS:
    • The episode "Blowback" starts with a guy getting kidnapped this way...by Tony and Ziva, as the guy in question not only sold weapons to terrorists but also works with Arms Dealer La Grenouille, whom NCIS is currently after.
    • "Gone" starts with a teenage girl being kidnapped by Human Traffickers who also kill the naval officer who tries to save her.
  • In an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, a young girl is kidnapped this way. Subverted when it's revealed that it was part of an op set up by the OSP; the girl is perfectly safe with the agents.
  • 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.
  • Starsky & Hutch:
    • In "Bloodbath," Starsky is kidnapped by cultists in a black van with curtained windows, right when he's about to testify against their leader.
    • In "The Psychic," three men kidnap a teenage girl in a blue van. They have no intention of giving her back even if they get the money, so they abandon her in another van in a junkyard.

    Music 
  • The video for Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" focuses on missing youths. During the second verse, a teen prostitute is picked up by a creepy-looking old man in his car. A bit later, she's shown being thrown into the back of a van by several men, one of whom gets in with her. She's then shown being loaded into an ambulance with blood on her face.

    Roleplay 
  • Played for Laughs in Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues. Hyeon finds Benedict outside of the high school, and suspects that the police are looking for him since he didn't return home the previous night. Hyeon tries to get them away from the school, but then Benedict's hyper-intelligence power causes him to start freaking out. Nadine then comes across the duo, so Hyeon in a panic tells her to grab Benedict and help him get the boy to his car trunk. Benedict does recover his senses in time to go in the back seat instead, however.

    Tabletop Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • At the beginning of Danganronpa V 3, ordinary schoolgirl Kaede Akamatsu wakes up in an odd classroom and recounts that she was walking to school as usual when someone shoved her in a van. She screamed for help, but everyone around her ignored her, reinforcing her beliefs about how rotten the world is.

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