You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Kidnap’

Kidnappers beware, or you're liable to wind up having to contend with an angry mother and her minivan — as only Halle Berry can play it.

Luis Prieto
Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, Lew Temple, Christopher Berry.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1458169/

“You took the wrong kid!” Halle Berry growls when she finally comes face-to-face with the creeps who abducted her 6-year-old son in “Kidnap,” a tight, effective 100-yard-dash of a thriller that’s as single-minded as the title makes it sound. When she reports the crime to the local sheriff’s office, they tell her to wait. She studies the bulletin board full of missing children photos, some of whom disappeared more than 15 years ago, and her eyes widen. “That’s what all these people did. They waited!” she says, and with that, she’s out the door and back in pursuit of her kid.

The implication is that Berry’s character, Karla Dyson, isn’t like other parents, and yet, what makes “Kidnap” so compelling is that she behaves exactly the way you think you might under the same circumstances. Twelve minutes into the movie, someone nabs her son Frankie, snatching him from a park and stuffing him into the back of a beat up old Mustang, and from that moment on, Halle don’t stop. She’s a single-minded mama bear intent on protecting her cub, jumping behind the wheel of her red minivan and speeding after the goons responsible (Chris McGinn and Lew Temple, as menacing human garbage).

Halle don’t stop when the Mustang veers off the highway. She just slams on the brakes, puts the van in reverse and adjusts course, oblivious to the fact that she’s turned the interstate into a demolition derby behind her. Halle don’t stop when one of the kidnappers starts unloading the trunk with obstacles — not even when, swerving to avoid the spare tire they tossed into oncoming traffic, she sends a big-body SUV somersaulting down the road.

Halle don’t care about collateral damage.

There are even more egregious examples of unaware drivers and innocent pedestrians mauled during her hit-and-run recovery mission, but let’s be honest: If Frankie were your kid, chances are you wouldn’t stop to render aid to those unlucky enough to get in the way either. And yet, at some point, you’ve gotta wonder whether she’s actually doing more to endanger her son than to rescue him (the thought certainly occurs when the door of the Mustang opens and its reckless driver dangles him out of the moving vehicle).

Because director Luis Prieto spends just enough time demonstrating how much Frankie means to his mother, who’s a working-class waitress fighting for shared custody as it is, we’re right there with her throughout. Five years ago, Prieto oversaw an ultra-swanky remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Pusher,” all neon lights and self-conscious camera moves, that looked the way the 1996 Danish crime film might had Refn made it today. By comparison, “Kidnap” might as well be an Italian neorealist film. Apart from a few CG-enhanced fly-over shots (which suggest news-chopper footage of a police chase), the camera sticks close to Karla, shaking enough to make the action feel immediate without leaving us carsick.

Screenwriter Knate Lee has helpfully anticipated the most obvious logical questions audiences might have (like, why doesn’t she just use her cell phone, or how much gas does she have in her tank anyway?), which makes it harder than you might think for would-be hecklers to twist Halle’s ordeal into an object of ridicule. Without an ounce of fat on its 81-minute running time, we never learn enough about the character to guess why custody might be in danger, but as played by Berry, the actress’ star persona fills in the blanks: She’s convincingly tough, yet humanly vulnerable — an everyday hero pushed to super extremes, powered by a formidable combination of adrenaline and maternal instinct. (Her offroad-ready minivan, on the other hand, can tax credibility at times, and frequent shots of the speedometer reveal her well below the speed limit.)

The challenge of a film like “Kidnap” is to put audiences in Karla’s head, bypassing distractions to focus on the kind of spur-of-the-moment decisions that might plausibly result in getting Frankie back. But assuming she actually manages to catch the Mustang, what does she hope to do then? Without giving too much away (though it’s hard to spoil what the movie leaves mostly to the imagination anyway), the kidnappers aren’t looking for a ransom. They answer to someone with deeper pockets and darker intentions, which makes this a far scarier prospect: It means that when forced into a corner, they’re not opposed to killing Karla, or her son, or anyone who gets in their way.

Karla doesn’t have a plan, but she can adapt in a flash, which makes her something of a real-world wonder woman — especially any time one of the kidnappers dares to reach into or climb aboard her minivan. She’s the complete antithesis of the ambivalent parents seen in “Loveless,” a grim Russian art film that premiered at Cannes in which a divorcing couple fail to notice when their son goes missing (although film critics are probably the only people who’d actually see both movies, which operate on opposite ends of the art-trash continuum). Still, it’s undeniably more engaging to watch an almost real-time account of a mother fighting to get back her son than it is to ponder the conditions under which such a child might disappear unobserved.

How lucky that Karla was there to see the green Mustang leaving the park! And how unlucky for its drivers that they took the wrong kid.

Film Review: 'Kidnap'

Reviewed at Pacific Theaters at the Grove, Los Angeles, Aug. 1, 2017. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 81 MIN.

Production: An Aviron Pictures release, presented in association with Lotus Entertainment, Ingenious Media, of a di B Pictures, Lotus Entertainment, 606 Films, Gold Star Films, Well Go USA, Rumble Entertainment production. Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Erik Howsam, Joey Tufaro, Gregory Chou, Halle Berry, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. Executive producers: Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel, Ara Keshishian, D.J. Gugenheim, Doris Pfardrescher, Mike Drake, Todd Trosclair, Knate Lee, Colin Bates, David Dinerstein, Jason Resnick, William Sadler.

Crew: Director: Luis Prieto. Screenplay: Knate Lee. Camera (color, widescreen): Flavio Labiano. Editor: Avi Youabian. Music: Frederico Jusid.

With: Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, Lew Temple, Christopher Berry.

More Film

  • Avengers: Endgame

    Film Review: 'Avengers: Endgame'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains mild spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.” The culmination of 10 years and more than twice as many movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Avengers: Endgame” promises closure where its predecessor, “Avengers: Infinity War,” sowed chaos. That film — which revealed that the cookie-cutter uniformity of all those MCU movies had [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Why a $300 Million Opening Could Be Impossible

    “Avengers: Endgame” is preparing for a staggering debut between $250 million and $268 million in North America alone. Unprecedented anticipation surrounding the Marvel juggernaut has some particularly optimistic box office watchers tossing around even higher numbers, estimating the superhero tentpole could clear nearly $300 million in ticket sales in its first three days. If any film [...]

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Nightmare Alley

    Leonardo DiCaprio in Talks to Star in Guillermo del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leonardo DiCaprio is in negotiations to star in Fox Searchlight’s “Nightmare Alley,” Guillermo del Toro’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning film “The Shape of Water.” Del Toro will direct the pic and co-wrote the script with Kim Morgan. “Nightmare Alley” is being produced and financed by del Toro and J. Miles Dale with TSG Entertainment, with [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck to Star in and Direct World War II Caper 'Ghost Army'

    Ben Affleck will star in and direct the Universal Pictures caper “Ghost Army,” based on the book “The Ghost Army of World War II,” written by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, as well as the documentary “Ghost Army.” It’s unclear when the movie will go into production as it’s still in development and Affleck is [...]

  • Britney Spears Musical

    Britney Spears Musical 'Once Upon a One More Time's' Film Rights Land at Sony

    Sony Pictures has won screen rights to the Broadway-bound “Once Upon a One More Time,” a fairy tale featuring classic songs from Britney Spears, sources have confirmed to Variety. John Davis’ Davis Entertainment will produce the film along with Spears and her manager, Larry Rudolph. Neither a writer nor a director has yet been attached. [...]

  • ‘Girl on the Train’ India Remake

    ‘Girl on the Train’ Indian Remake Set at Reliance Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    India’s Reliance Entertainment will produce the official Indian remake of Tate Taylor’s 2016 film “The Girl on the Train.” Ribhu Dasgupta, who is currently completing Netflix series “Bard Of Blood,” being produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, will direct. Parineeti Chopra (“Kesari”) will star. Production will commence at U.K. locations from mid-July. Based [...]

  • 'Avengers: Endgame' Cast Gets Hands and

    Watch Live: 'Avengers' Cast Gets Hands and Feet Cemented at TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood

    The Avengers have left an indelible mark on popular culture and now they are doing the same to the cement floor outside of the TCL Chinese Theater.  Watch the livestream video of “Avengers: Endgame” cast Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans,  Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige imprinting [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content