Director - Luis Prieto
Cast - Halle Berry
Rating - 2.5/5
What Kidnap doesn’t get is that we’re already on its side. No one wants to see a child being taken – and even if he is, there’s no way in hell anyone’s rooting for the kidnapper.
So it doesn’t make sense for the movie to spend an inordinate amount of time – 10 excruciatingly saccharine minutes – on developing the relationship between the mother (played by Halle Berry) and the child (Sage Correa). Perhaps out of indecision, or a general lack of confidence, Kidnap opens with a record-breaking number of clichés crammed into roughly the same amount of time it would take you to read this.
She’s an overworked, underpaid waitress, caught in the middle of a custody battle with her more successful ex-husband. But all she wants is for her shift at the diner to end so that she can take her kid to the amusement park.
There, she gets a call from her lawyer; the ex wants full custody. She turns her back for a moment, leaving Freddie (that’s her kid) to his own devices, and asks the lawyer what her next move should be. She’s a waitress, and her ex is in real estate. His new fiancé is a pediatrician, for God’s sake. You do the math. But just when things are about to get heated, her phone’s battery runs out. Looking even more exhausted than she did back at the diner, she returns to Freddie.
But he’s gone.
Karla – that’s Halle Berry’s character – frantically goes from one person to another, asking them if they’ve seen a six-year-old. And then, she spots him. He’s in the parking lot, being shoved into a light blue jalopy. She does quick calculations, and figures her best move is to give chase in her minivan.
And then the movie turns into – and this is admittedly a great premise – an extended car chase – like Mad Max: Fury Road, but with all the panache of a bored high schooler’s summer project.
While the idea of a (phoneless) mother chasing her son’s kidnappers on the highway sounds like an exciting set-up, it takes a filmmaker of considerable talent to sustain it for the length of an entire movie. Luis Prieto isn’t that guy. Coincidentally, Halle Berry starred in another film with a rather similar kidnapping-themed premise – The Call – but the reason that movie turned out to be a blast is probably because it was directed by Brad Anderson, a tremendous B-movie filmmaker.
This one, however, decides that the only way forward is to throw in as many arbitrary plot twists – each one more ludicrous than the last – until the whole thing goes completely off the map in the third act.
Kidnap is a shoddily-directed movie – filled with ADHD editing, ridiculous twists, and a tone that irresponsibly swerves between gritty thriller and Road Runner cartoon. What’s most irritating is that there’s always the sense that it could’ve been a much better movie had a little more care been put into it – again, all you have to do is to watch The Call, or even the first Taken movie to tell the difference. I’m not even going to mention Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, because that film is on an entirely different level of quality.
But as Karla takes the law into her own hands – in a very realistically-drawn world, mind you – it’s only natural to wonder where the cops are. Surely a highway chase would attract some sort of attention – considering especially the wake of destruction Karla’s minivan is leaving behind.
But no, every cop who appears in this movie – and there aren’t too many of them – is a loon. The rest of the time, the inexplicable lack of law enforcement is just confusing.
None of this, it should be made very clear, is Halle Berry’s fault. In fact, you can confidently say that she’s the best thing about the movie – committed, sincere, and wrenchingly emotional when she needs to be. But the movie itself is none of these things.
At 85 minutes long, it doesn’t really overstay its welcome, but it kinda invited itself anyway. So…
Watch the trailer for Kidnap here