Sporadically entertaining movie that ultimately falls short.
by Steve Pulaski
One has to wonder why Relativity Media, Kidnap's original distributor before they encountered financial bankruptcy, and Aviron Pictures, the film's current distributor, wrestled after six release dates fell through. For a film that was conceptualized and scouted in 2009 to be shot in 2014 to finally get a release in 2017 is not the worst thing that could happen to a film (go ask the animators and crew behind Foodfight! how they're holding up after that mess), but when your product is this interchangeable and this destined for obscurity, one needs to write a feature story asking everyone involved if releasing Kidnap like this was really worth it in the end.
Kidnap isn't bad, but it's repetitive, and when something is repetitive, you can easily be made to think it's bad. Simply put, the film echoes a plethora of late 1990s/early 2000s thrillers and, more recently, brings to mind Halle Berry's film The Call from 2013, a film I truly enjoyed. Kidnap, however, doesn't have the same level of high-octane thrills and suspense that particularly film had; at 75 minutes, it's as slight and as generic as it can be, and feels like screenwriter Knate Gwaltney got so wrapped up in writing it he made the plot move as fast as Halle Berry speeding down a four-lane highway in a minivan.
Berry plays Karla, a diner waitress with a six-year-old son named Frankie (Sage Correa), who goes into full panic-mode one day at the park after he goes missing right from under her nose. She sees him being stuffed into a Mustang GT by a middle-aged woman before peeling off onto a highway at top-speed, Karla soon quick behind them in her red minivan but not before dropping her cell-phone - how conveniently inconvenient. Barely a third of the way into this ever-so-short affair, we find out the kidnappers are a hillbilly couple (The Walking Dead's Lew Temple and Chris McGinn) that want a hefty ransom for Frankie as they're part of a ring larger than just the two of them. Using a mother's intuition, and driving skills ostensibly obtained from marathoning all of the Fast and the Furious movies, Karla zooms after the car, battling confused state troopers, traffic jams, and a low gas-tank all in the name of assuring the safety of her son.
Berry is such a gifted actress that has never come close to replicating the electricity and dynamic qualities of the role that won her an Oscar in 2002 for Monster's Ball. Whether purposefully taking simple roles like this to secure a paycheck or out of a desire to keep a lower profile having "proven herself" well-over a decade ago, Berry's talents in films like Kidnap or even the superior The Call are welcome but questionable. She's still got it in her, taking control of the film with the responsibility of making it a one-woman show, even when, at one point, most of her dialog consists of exclamations of "oh God!" and even an informal prayer to our creator.
But Berry's Karla could've been a more balanced, give-and-take role between her and the kidnappers, yet the latter are left caricatured and undeveloped outside of the fact that their existence is predicated upon being generic villains. In addition, the editing is quite sloppy, with canted angles appearing at the strangest times during the many car-chases, on top of peculiar fades-to-black and failed attempts at cross-editing alluding to the idea that the people behind the editing and filming process weren't quite sure how to handle the more climactic moments within a scene. Maybe the many misconstrued angles proved to be too difficult with which to work.
Sporadically entertaining but futile in its attempts to inspire consistent suspense and intrigue outside of the obvious, Kidnap, given how many missed release dates we had to endure, is a disappointment, meaning, yes, I did have some expectations for the film. I thought it would be a surprising diversion from the usual "dog days" of summer attitude that plagues August and even part of September in American cinemas. Sad to say, it more or less fits right in as a nod of affirmation to the predictable wasteland at the multiplex.
Steve's Grade: C-