It’s a one woman show as Halle Berry goes on a frantic road trip chasing a mystery car that has kidnapped her son.
While watching Kidnap I started to be reminded of ‘hagsploitation’ films of the 60’s. Like, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Lady in Cage, The Night Walker, movies where former A-List stars like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Olivia DeHaviland and Barbara Stanwyck, after their popularity began to fade ventured into B movie territory. Offers of roles for these aging ladies became fewer, so they headlined in ‘schlock’ horror and thriller movies with varying degrees of success.
Now, I would never describe Berry as ‘an old hag’. Just the opposite! She continues to look stunning even after enduring beatings, being dragged on the pavement and crawling out of cataclysmic car crashes. But the similarity of this popular star and Oscar-winning actress starring in such a low-rent movie really reenforced to me of how her career has declined.
Kidnap sat on a shelf for nearly three years before finally being released and when it did finally come out critics tore it apart, audiences ignored it and the movie quickly disappeared from theaters. It became yet another misfire for Berry, who hasn’t had a hit in a very long time.
In Kidnap’s defense, it’s not all that bad. Before sitting down to watch this I was expecting a real train wreck from start to finish. While things take ridiculous and head-slapping curves, there are some gripping moments and it creates decent momentum at the start.
It’s essentially a ninety-minute car chase. It’s as direct as its title and it works for awhile. Berry’s son goes missing, she spots him being taken into the kidnapper’s car and she’s off and running. Of course she has to lose her cell phone so she’s all on her own for this ordeal. She looks like a crazed woman speeding down the highway.
It’s really around the halfway mark the movie careens out of control with silly ludicrous problems tossed at Berry that she’s forced to overcome. Luckily, Berry is driving the most indestuctinble mini-van in creation. Seriously, this thing is a great advert for Soccer Moms everywhere.
The initial chase is pretty good as Berry will not let this sinister car out of her sight. It seems like they got some inspiration from Speed, Taken and Breakdown for portions of this.
Director Luis Prieto keeps the pace up as she desperately tries to catch up to this car. We just have to ignore all the injuries of unsuspecting motorists that the relentless Berry leaves in her driving wake.
Predictable and frustrating decisions must be made to sustain this simple premise – and it does get annoying. I could almost go along with some of it – the woman is panicked, she’s making rash decisions, she’s not thinking clearly – but it just gets to be a bit too much to swallow.
Kidnap might have been more effective as shorter, 30-40 minute film. It starts to sputter to a slower pace as things progress and scenes gets stretched and padded out to make it to a feature length. There’s a lot of overhead driving shots and in one bizarre moment after a car crash the camera lingers on a shot for what felt like an absurd amount of time.
It’s like they knew that they didn’t have enough ideas for this to make a full length movie from this story so they started to tack on time anywhere they could. There are a lot of shots of the speedometer – it should have been billed as a co-star, along with painted lines whizzing by on the pavement.
One thing I have to admit is that I found Berry’s kid very annoying in this. At the beginning we meet Mom and son and they have to establish that they love each other and all that – I found both of their acting pretty artificial. This isn’t a pair I was enamored by. They really try to shove it down our throats about their close relationship and it came off more cringy than genuine to me.
Anyway, the third act Berry leaves her minivan behind and it becomes a suspenseful entry into the kidnappers lair. There’s really not much to speak of about it. It’s very standard stuff – hiding, trying to get to a phone, trying to be quiet, you know the drill.
It’s sure not Duel and I never plan to watch it again, but it was pretty painless. It stuck to its objectives of its B-movie roots, but never exceeded them or became anything more special than that. Berry is fine and there a few good moments, along with a lot of very silly ones. I really don’t think it deserved as much hate as it had gotten though.
It’s certainly better than what I had heard, especially with the delay of its release and some of the things I had read.
I think for some they’ll be satisfied with Kidnap. As long as they don’t have lofty expectations, can forgive its lack of logic and are just wanting to see a simple action/thriller that will hit all the beats they’re looking for – no matter how nonsensical they manage to strike them – it should go over pretty well.
With all that in mind, Halle’s fans should be happy and the movie will give them exactly what they want from it. Actually, I’m not too sure what a ‘Halle Berry fan’ would expect to see from her at this point. Halle seems to get most of her attention from just looking beautiful walking on red carpets, posing for photos and sharing beauty secrets than any of her acting roles. So, if anything Kidnap will remind folks that she does still act in a never-ending stream of at best, average forgettable movies.
I suppose that really sounds like faint praise, huh? But still, it was better than I ever thought it would be!