Halle Berry is a very good actress. She deserves to be in better movies than KIDNAP (2017).
KIDNAP opens with a mother Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) playing with her son Frankie (Sage Correa) at a busy park. When Karla is distracted by a business call on her cell phone, she loses sight of her son, and after the call, she discovers that he is missing.
She catches a glimpse of him being shoved into a car, and after failing to catch the car on foot, she jumps into her own car and begins a high speed pursuit. Just how far will a mother go to get her son back? That’s the question posed by this movie, and of course the answer is obvious- she’ll go to the ends of the earth.
The rest of KIDNAP is pretty much a nonstop chase as Karla pursues the kidnappers over roads, highways, and wherever they lead her. Sounds like an intense thrill ride, but it’s not, because the filmmakers forgot one very important ingredient: they forgot to make it believable.
The first problem I had with the plot of this one is the kidnappers’ motivations. Karla chases them from the outset, and within seconds she’s on the road behind them causing an uproar. You’d think that kidnappers, regardless of how much money they might be paid for stealing children, would not want this kind of exposure. You’d think they dump the child and take off. But no, they hang on, as if this particular child was the next Lindbergh baby.
The next issue is Karla in her pursuit of the kidnappers causes more accidents and collateral damage than James Bond and Jason Bourne combined. You’d think the police would be all over her, especially after one of their own, a motorcycle cop, is killed in the chase. But, nope, the police aren’t anywhere to be found.
At first, I thought the film was going for a DUEL (1971) feel, the classic early Steven Spielberg film about a truck chasing a car driven by Dennis Weaver in which you never see the driver of the truck. Early on in KIDNAP, you don’t see the kidnappers either, just their vehicle. But, alas, this wasn’t to be as we soon do meet the kidnappers, and— well, it might have been a stronger story had we not met them.
The screenplay by Knate Lee starts with a scary premise- a young child abducted from his mother- but then does nothing with it. It’s contrived within moments of Karla’s jumping into her car to chase after her son’s kidnappers.
Director Luis Prieto fares a bit better. The chase scenes are done rather well, and in terms of action scenes, this one doesn’t disappoint. And the scene early on where Karla discovers her son is missing in the park is a good one, full of suspense and that sense of dread parents feel when they realize their child isn’t where he/she is supposed to be. But these positives are undercut by the fact that I just didn’t believe any of it.
The best part of KIDNAP is the performance by Halle Berry as Karla, the distraught mother who won’t give up her pursuit of the kidnappers who took her son. It’s an exhilerating performance, one that makes this movie better than it actually is.
This is the second straight clinker that Berry has starred in, following THE CALL (2013), another pretty bad and convoluted thriller. She deserves better.
The rest of the cast is neglible. Chris McGinn and Lew Temple barely register as the kidnappers, mostly because we know nothing about them nor do we see them do a whole heck of a lot. Temple was much more memorable when he played Axel, one of the prisoners, on THE WALKING DEAD.
Likewise, young Sage Correa as Karla’s son Frankie isn’t in this movie enough to make much of an impact.
I wasn’t expecting much from KIDNAP, and it didn’t really deliver, in spite of a solid performance by Halle Berry and a decent directorial job by Luis Prieto. It just never really came to life for me, as I never believed what was happening on screen. This is a movie that was begging for another rewrite, to polish the script and make it more believable.
As it stands, KIDNAP is a rather ludicrous thriller that fails to draw in its audience because it’s difficult to root for Halle Berry when she’s operating in a world that seems so far removed from reality.
Books by Michael Arruda:
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.