Kidnap and all the images you see in this review are owned by Aviron Pictures
Directed by Luis Prieto
TWO YEARS! This movie has been sitting on a shelf for nearly two freaking years due to the financial troubles of its original distributor Relativity media before being picked up by its current distributor and finally getting a release. I mean, I guess it’s better than the cinematic limbo that Amityville: The Awakening is stuck in (wrapped in 2014 and STILL hasn’t been released) but it still doesn’t bode well considering how little this movie is being promoted. Hell, I thought this thing came out last year which is when I saw the first trailer, and I only found out like a week ago that it was only now coming out! Still, Halle Berry is a really great actor (Catwoman non-withstanding) and I do tend to like a decent car chase movie. Does this have a chance of rising above its troubled and awkwardly handled release, or was shelving this thing the best anyone involved could have hoped for? Let’s find out!!
Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is the clichéd single mom who’s got a crappy job but is trying to make it work as well as make time for her son (Sage Correa). Being the perfect mother figure though, it was only a matter of time before dramatic irony rears its ugly head and the ONE FREAKING MINUTE she walks away to take a very important phone call, some scumbags (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn) manage to swoop in and take her son. Why did they take her son and what do they hope to get from this working class mom? Who cares! THEY’VE GOT HER FREAKING KID! Time for Karla to do the only sensible thing which is to be a total bad ass and chase after them in her minivan and try to get SOMEONE’S attention long enough for them to help her stop these crooks from keeping her son for any longer. It’s too bad that her phone died AND she accidentally left it at the park where her son was kidnapped, but that’s beside the point! COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, SHE WILL GET HER SON BACK!! Does Karla have even the slightest chance of stopping the criminals before they do any harm to her precious son? How far will she need to go and how much collateral damage will she cause in her mad dash not lose sight of the kidnappers? Just where the heck did she learn to drive like that!?
Wow. Considering how long this film languished in Post Production Hell, I was NOT expecting this to be a good movie, let alone a GREAT movie! Seriously, I haven’t had this much fun in a car movie since Drive Angry (HOLY CRAP! THAT WAS SIX YEARS AGO!!) and it honestly puts into stark contrast the flaws in something like Baby Driver which MAY have more technical panache than this film, but that just goes to show how style can’t always make up for a lack of substantive and engaging characters. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much as the key selling point of this movie is in fact its interesting stylistic choice and the lengths to which it goes to mine juicy and ridiculous drama, but there’s something much more accessible about a mother driving her ass off to save her kid from a bunch of dumb bastards who picked the wrong parent to fuck with than whatever the hell was going on in Baby Driver. It may be a simplistic premise without a rockin’ soundtrack and it may not have the gravitas of an Edgar Wright production, but I can’t imagine a more thrilling and viscerally satisfying film for those who like their action films over the top and the slightest bit farcical.
It’s kind of hard to truly nail down the tone in this thing which is doubly awkward considering that it’s one of the best parts about it. It’s simultaneously a grounded film considering we’ve only got two exceedingly average cars with pretty average people behind the wheel chasing each other, but the film is also over the top in just how far it gets away from that sense of banality with each set piece that raises the stakes and increases the desperation. For example, Halle Berry is mugging through the ENTIRE film as about sixty to seventy percent of the film’s dialogue is just her talking to herself while driving her car, and yet she expresses so much with just her eyes and body language that you never lose sight of her humanity nor do you ever forget just how much is at stake for her. There’s one point in the movie where she prays to God in a manner you’d expect from Homer Simpson or Rick Sanchez (a last ditch effort to get themselves out of a jam) and while it’s kind of humorous on that level, it works in the context of the movie what with how much stress she’s going through and how desperate she is to not lose her son to the kidnappers. This bald faced sincerity and humanity in the face of one of the worst nightmares a person can go through doesn’t ALWAYS work (at one point I VERY briefly got a flashback to Tommy Wiseau while watching Halle Berry absentmindedly ramble on about the thing we’re currently watching her do) but it’s the unifying thread that grounds all the outlandish elements into something resembling a cohesive experience. It’s got moments that wouldn’t have worked if this movie wasn’t walking such a fine line with its tone and the fact that it’s able to pull it off as well as it does is a testament to the filmmakers ability to tell this story without a hint of hesitation or restraint.
[KIDNAPCD3 – She’s a maniac, MANIAC, on the road! And she’s driving like she’s never drove BEFORE!!]
The movie lives and dies on Halle Berry’s incredibly intense performance, but she’s not the only one doing a damn fine job in this. Okay, the kid is PRETTY bad in the way a lot of kid actors are (acting sincere and lovable in a way no kid has ever acted), but our two kidnappers played by Lew Temple and Chris McGinn are phenomenal in their roles and do a fantastic job of maintaining the mystery as to what is REALLY going on. Unfortunately one of the biggest problems in the movie is that… well there really isn’t anything going on beyond the surface of the situation which makes the ending feel somewhat disappointing. Oh, it’s fantastically executed and in just how intense and chilling the whole scenario is, but once everything is said and done and the credits start rolling, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. The movie throws out a few decent Red Herrings regarding the reason as to why this is going on, and the performance of the kidnappers is aloof enough to continue tantalizing us as to what their TRUE motives are (even though we see their faces and know their names, they are as mysterious and inexplicable as the truck driver in Duel), but that Twilight Zone twist just never comes which feels really underwhelming in hindsight. There IS an explanation at the end that I guess justifies the kidnappers trying desperately to keep this kid despite them being the ONLY thing keeping this rampaging woman on their ass, but considering how damn melodramatic and even soap opera-ish the film was, I was hoping that the big final revelation wasn’t so… mundane. It doesn’t ruin the movie like bad endings can sometimes do (*cough* Allied *cough*) but it felt like the reckless abandon with which the film was being made up to that point was dropped once we got to the finale and everyone decided to be the TINIEST bit serious all of a sudden.
[KIDNAPCD4 – “WHERE IS HE!?” “What? I can’t understand you when you do that really fake growly voice.”]
Okay, I just told a lie as there IS another oddly serious moment in here which is when Halle Berry sees a wall of missing kid posters and it steels her resolve to not wait around like THEIR parents did to instead continue her wild care chase with the kidnappers; making for easily the most awkward (but not the fun way) scene in the entire movie. Look, I get it. The whole movie is pure wish fulfillment of the idea that when things get rough, you’ll find a way to fight back instead of freeze up like a deer in the headlights; the idea that, given the opportunity, we would stand up and know how to stop a great injustice happening before us. To explicitly build that fantasy up on the backs of a real life problem though, in as direct a way as this film does, feels incredibly crass and short sighted for a movie that only really works outside of any real world context. This one shot should REALLY have been cut from the movie and its baffling that the filmmakers couldn’t figure that out considering how much time they had to work on the damn thing. Even if the scene at the police station where this moment happens was VITAL to the story (Spoiler alert: It’s not), there were plenty of ways to get her back on the road outside of throwing shade at parents who DIDN’T endanger others by continuing a high speed chase.
Whether or not you’re gonna like this movie is gonna depend on a few things. If you can’t get behind Halle Berry’s quest to get her son back and ride with her on the emotional roller coaster that ensues, you’ll likely be unable to overlook the movies flaws or even enjoy some of its more absurd moments. It’s an exceptionally silly movie which we’ve been getting quite a few of recently (Valerian, The Dark Tower) and while it’s been a GREAT few weeks at the theater for me, the box office returns and Rotten Tomato scores seem to say otherwise which makes me a little more cautious in whole heartedly encouraging everyone to go see this. I mean, you SHOULD because it’s awesome, but not everyone is gonna enjoy this movie for what it is which is silly, intense, and even pretty awkward at times. Seriously, I can’t imagine this movie NOT making it on my Top Ten list this year I enjoyed it so much, which SHOULD make it a slam dunk for everyone, but mankind has yet to recognize my genius…