Director: Luis Prieto/2017
Just to come right out and say it, Kidnap is not the worst thing you’ll see this summer. At a superficial level, you can even “enjoy” it for its adrenaline level action that seems to push the idea that “hell hath no fury like a woman….whose son is taken”, or something like that. That being said, it is not an endorsement of the film that seems to be a case of life imitating art, as much as the film’s synopsis holds up this high ideal of a child being taken every 40 seconds, and that you need to be prepared if you think it can’t happen to you, etc. No, in this case Kidnap the actual finished movie, much like the fictional premise of the film, was actually kidnapped from the box office for over 2 years by a series of bizarre situations. Kidnap had completed filming in 2014 and was set to be released in 2015. Multiple delays eventually led to the original studio losing rights to the film, and only now, with a new distributor coming on board, will Halle Berry’s latest project finally break free from its captors, free to be shown and compete for box office dollars at the local multiplex. Life of the film imitating the art of the film.
Halle Berry is a competent actor, and she puts her all into the role, but it seems that her talents are being wasted in films such as this.
Basically, what you see is what you get with Kidnap if you have seen the trailers. A woman named Karla Dyson (Berry) has her six year old son taken from her in a blink of an eye at a crowded event in New Orleans. As she frantically searches around, calling his name, she catches sight of a large woman shoving her son into a car. She takes off after them, giving chase on foot in the parking lot, dropping her phone in the process, before coming upon her car and then the rest of the film is a high speed police chase. Not having her phone to easily call the police might seem like the more scary scenario to many a people who are addicted to such things, and indeed, this story would be much different had she had that as a tool to assist her (but please note for those who panicked about the thought of this idea of having no phone in a situation with as high of stakes as this does….the actual scary scenario is that a child can be a victim every 40 seconds in our country). Instead, it helps create a throwback scenario that might have played out more effectively in the 1990’s, and earlier, when everyone wasn’t really carrying cell phones and so that they might parlay the success of Ron Howard’s kidnapping film, Ransom, to kind of capitalize on having such a similar theme.
Halle Berry is a competent actor, and she puts her all into the role, but it seems that her talents are being wasted in films such as this. In 2013, she had a similar premise in The Call, where as a 911 operator, she personally gets involved in hunting down the kidnappers of a girl whose call she has taken. It involves driving to a remote location and having to physically deal with the abductors before everything is resolved and the credits roll. Kidnap follows a similar pattern, minus the occupation, and substitute in being the parent of this child, but a similar formula for sure.
The film suffers more from bad writing, directing, and especially editing than anything. If I can help do anything promotionally for this film, let it be the hashtag, #WhatHappened2TheAirbag. One scene shows an airbag going off, and then every scene following, there is no airbag. There are always little “oops” moments, but for a film that is contingent on a series of events within a very long and extended car chase, the disappearance of something this big (especially how it would affect what comes after) becomes almost distracting. So hit twitter as soon as you see the movie (in a few months on home video), tag the movie and drop the hashtag….#WhatHappened2TheAirbag…….let’s do this together!
Cheap hashtag ploys and valid criticisms aside, Halle Berry is what makes this somewhat watchable, and even occasionally entertaining. A nice way to put that is: Halle Berry keeps the gas pedal to the floor as she pursues her kidnapped son. Unfortunately, Kidnap may not have a lot of gas in the tank to propel this film much past the opening weekend as summer dies down and those more likely willing to watch a surface level high-stakes film head back to Junior High and High School. Since this age group will be the main audience of something like this (and even then its meant to target adults who are parents), it is curious that this film is rated “R”. Mainly this would be for the intensity of the subject matter which is obviously described in the title of the film, and some non-gory violence, along with a few curse words, but nothing that would even push the boundary of a PG-13 film. This rating will also hurt its box office chances.
For a film that has been seemingly kidnapped from being released for a few years, to the fact that its about a kidnapping, it will be interesting to see it get taken again….only this time it will be mercifully be taken out of the theaters quickly so that it can have a much longer life ahead of it on various home video platforms where it will find a much more sympathetic audience, and at a cheaper price. But in light of the many other summer bombs in 2017, this film is not as bad as some, and the fact that Halle Berry is the main protagonist is a good thing, even if the whole of the film is not.