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 Take This Movie, Please

Halle Berry
Halle Berry
Aviron Pictures
 82 Minutes
Directed by: Luis Prieto
Starring: Halle Berry, Sage Correa 

In 2013, Halle Berry had a surprise box office success with The Call, a thriller in which she played a 911 operator trying to save a kidnapped girl who was being transported in the trunk of a car as they spoke. Perhaps invigorated by her success, Berry apparently decided to incorporate some of the key elements of that first film—herself, the kidnapped child, and a moving car—in the not surprisingly entitled Kidnap, a movie she also executive produced. Unfortunately, she forgot to incorporate such necessities as a decent story and competent direction, and the result is a movie that quite deservedly sat on the shelf for nearly three years.


Berry stars in Kidnap as Karla Dyson, a single mother struggling to keep custody of her six-year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa). An outing with Frankie to a local carnival ends badly when the child is snatched away by a woman as a momentarily distracted Karla argues with her ex-husband over the phone. Karla spots the woman driving off and is able to give chase in her own car but loses her cell phone in the process. For the next hour of the movie’s scant 82-minute running time, Karla pursues Frankie and the kidnappers, a man and woman (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn) straight out of central casting for mean rednecks.


Despite Karla’s frantic efforts and despite both cars driving across half of Louisiana breaking dozens of traffic laws and causing several wrecks in the process, Karla is unable to get the attention of any police agency, with the exception of one motorcycle trooper who stops the harried mother. Unfortunately, before Karla can explain her situation to the officer, he is run down by the kidnappers’ car, leading to Karla again resuming her seemingly hopeless chase. Later in the movie, the kidnapper crashes his car and flees with Frankie on foot. Karla does something intelligent for one of the few times in the movie, stopping at the local police station to ask for help, only to find the station completely abandoned except for a dispatcher.


The thought of a downtown police station being completely empty and a dispatcher unable to summon help in a kidnapping case is just one of the many, many, many plot implausibilities that populate the script of Kidnap. I realize that thrillers often rely on coincidence and improbability, but so many ridiculous things happen in Kidnap that I can easily see the film becoming the basis of a drinking game: take a shot every time something that is mind bogglingly incredible happens.


The biggest problem with Kidnap, beyond the ridiculous plot, is that the virtually non-stop action isn’t very exciting. The movie was directed by a relatively inexperienced Spanish director, Luis Prieto, and his lack of familiarity with action filmmaking is evident. During every chase sequence, his camera spends more time inside Karla’s car than showing the actual progress of the chase. As a result, we are “treated” to innumerable shots of Halle Berry crying, pleading, getting angry, and putting the full gamut of emotions on display. In addition, we get a lot of that old standby, the hands gripping or frantically turning the steering wheel.


I get the distinct impression that Berry was never told exactly what was going on during these mini-clips of her emoting while driving. Instead, Prieto probably simply filmed a couple of dozen of these 10- to 30-second clips and then inserted them at random during various parts of the movie. As a result, Berry’s performance seems to vary greatly from one scene to the next. To her credit, most of the time, she is able to maintain some semblance of the illusion that she’s actually a frightened mother chasing after her kidnapped son. At times, however, she goes overboard to the extent that the performance becomes borderline ludicrous.


Other than Berry and young Correa, almost everyone else in the movie is a mean redneck, a dumb redneck, or a mean, dumb redneck. Lew Temple, who plays the male half of the kidnapping couple, is a veteran of The Walking Dead and can play this type of role in his sleep. His “wife,” Chris McGinn, probably has more lines in Kidnap than in the rest of her twenty-year film career combined. To their credit, they handle mean and dumb quite well. Unfortunately, the script from novice Knate Lee doesn’t require them to do anything else.


I find it a bit difficult to understand how Halle Berry could have gone from a project like The Call, in which she was surrounded by talented people, to a rather complete mess like Kidnap, which seems in many ways to resemble a film school project. The fact that Kidnap is not a total debacle (and, in fact, is less offensive that this weekend’s other major release The Dark Tower) is due to Berry and her ability to create an empathetic character in the first few minutes of the movie. The goodwill that the audience feels towards Berry takes a while to dissipate, but it surely does well before the final showdown with the kidnappers. Once again, the old rule of thumb about the quality of films that sit on the shelf for a long time proves accurate. Someone should have kidnapped all the copies of this movie and held them hostage forever.

In this scene, Halle Berry has an early showdown with the kidnappers.

Read other reviews of Kidnap:


Kidnap (2017) on IMDb