Inside the strange world of kidnap and ransom survival schools. ... Wilson, a 43-year-old British Army veteran who once served in Northern Ireland, picks me up on a swampy morning at a Motel 6 in Dania Beach, a suburb of Miami. He is the founder of Risks Incorporated, a private security firm that offers a three-day kidnap and ransom course in which I’m enrolled. A skeptical man with a dark sense of humor who has worked in the security industry for two decades, Wilson moved to South Florida 13 years ago with his then-wife and never left. ... Wilson briefs me on the bourgeoning business of international kidnapping. The White House’s recent acknowledgment of the accidental killing of two al-Qaida hostages in Pakistan in January, as well as the dark news from Syria in recent months, both overshadows and underscores the fact that kidnappings are a global scourge. As incidents have increased worldwide, a parallel industry has emerged, one that includes insurance companies, negotiators, lawyers, and security firms like Risks Inc. In a 2010 investigation, London’s Independent newspaper dubbed this the “hostage industry,” and estimated its worth at about $1.6 billion a year. ... Costs range from about $600 to a couple thousand dollars. Some are entirely in a classroom; others include role-playing. ... Wilson’s course is somewhere in between: part tutorial, part field exercise, tailored to the needs of the client. The company’s website promises to “take you into the real world of terrorism and kidnap and ransom!”
Kos-Read, who is known in China only as Cao Cao, is by far the leading foreign actor working in the country today, having appeared in about 100 movies and television programs since his career began in 1999. He is famous throughout the mainland, and his career has been on a steady upward trajectory. Last December he appeared in the action film “Mojin — The Lost Legend,” currently the fifth-highest-grossing movie in Chinese history. ... just as Hollywood has begun to crack the market, Chinese cinema has come into its own. In recent years, Chinese studios have started shifting away from the agitprop that defined their cinematic output for generations and are instead focusing on genres that draw viewers to theaters in any country: action, adventure, comedy. In February, a sci-fi comedy called “The Mermaid” became the highest-grossing movie ever in China within 12 days of its release, earning more than $430 million. Increasingly, Chinese cinemagoers are opting to buy tickets for movies made specifically for them — like those in the “Ip Man” series — not those that pander to them or lecture them. It is in this sort of film that Kos-Read has finally had the chance to act, rather than portray a stand-in for Western imperiousness. If the Hollywood studios really want to understand how to succeed in China, Kos-Read’s journey makes for a kind of accidental guide.