Of course all kidnappers are bad, but the kidnappers in “Kidnap” are also pretty bad AS kidnappers.
And the actors playing the kidnappers, while certainly not bad thespians, aren’t about to make you forget some of the all-time evil, booooo-hiss-booooooo! kidnappers from superior films such as “The Silence of the Lambs” or “Ransom” or “Man on Fire” or even “Taken.”
After filming on “Kidnap” was completed in 2014, it sat on the shelf all this time before finally seeing the light of day. It’s certainly not one of those disasters that never should have been released, but even if you’re in the mood for escapist action, you can wait until it shows up on a flight or on the hotel in-room entertainment menu.
Even clocking in with a running time short of 90 minutes, the movie spins its wheels (in more ways than one) and repeats itself to the point of becoming ridiculous.
Halle Berry (also a producer on the film) is onscreen nearly every second of the movie. The director Luis Prieto seems obsessed with tight close-up shots of Berry, and while she remains one of the most photogenic actors on the planet, it doesn’t serve the performance to provide such static cinematography. Give her some room to breathe and emote!
Berry plays Karla McCoy, single mom to the adorable, slightly geeky 6-year-old Frankie (Sage Correa). Karla works hard as a waitress and dotes on her son. We like Karla.
In the opening montage of “home videos” depicting Frankie’s growth from infant to little guy, we hear only Karla’s voice. Apparently Dad was never around, and now he’s with his younger girlfriend, who’s in medical school. (Both Dad and the new GF are off-screen characters).
One afternoon at an amusement park, Karla takes a call from her attorney and is distracted just long enough for Frankie to go missing. The increasingly distraught Karla calls out “Frankie!” and also “Marco!” because she and Frankie like to play the game of Marco Polo. (A woman barks at Karla, “Is his name Frankie or Marco?!” It’s a funny line, although I don’t think it’s supposed to be.)
To its credit, “Kidnap” doesn’t follow the usual blueprint, with the captors phoning in demands, and the authorities tapping Karla’s phone lines and telling her what to say, and her ex storming in and telling her THIS IS EXACTLY WHY HE SHOULD HAVE PRIMARY CUSTODY.
Karla actually spots the kidnappers dragging Frankie into their car, and she takes off after them.
Off we go on a game of Hot Pursuit, with Karla (who dropped her phone back at the park, so no, she can’t call 911) driving at breakneck speeds like a skilled stuntwoman on the highways of New Orleans, weaving in and out of traffic, contributing to some possibly deadly crashes.
“Doesn’t anybody see what’s going on!” Karla cries out at one point, and yep, we’re thinking the same thing. You’d think dozens of motorists would be on their cell phones, telling police dispatchers about a beat-up green car racing down the highway, with a red minivan in wild pursuit.
Karla often talks to herself while playing a game of chicken with the kidnappers, who occasionally dangle Frankie from an open door or put a knife to his throat to tell her they mean business and she should back off. She begins a prayer by saying, “Hey God,” and continues to talk to God in a conversational style, as if he’s hovering just above her.
The screenplay from Knate Lee paints itself in a corner. Karla has a number of encounters with the kidnappers (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn), each of the face-offs less plausible. Cops and civilians react slowly and in some cases stupidly to Karla’s pleas for help — because if they DON’T have such reactions, the dopey, bumbling kidnappers will get caught, and the movie will end.
As Karla turns into Super Mom, brushing off multiple car accidents and more than one attempt on her life, “Kidnap” provides some easy applause-getting moments but grows increasingly over-the-top.
At one point an attack dog enters the picture, but it conveniently disappears at a key moment. We learn some shocking truths about the kidnappers — but we don’t believe for a second they’re smart enough (in a purely evil way) to be such calculating monsters.
Halle Berry throws herself into the performance, but she’s stuck playing a character we barely know before her kid is snatched and she has to turn into a one-person posse. Karla says things like, “You picked the wrong mom!” — as if other moms wouldn’t be as determined to save their kidnapped children.
In “Taken,” the captors DID pick the wrong dad, because he had a very particular set of skills, skills he had acquired over a long career. In “Kidnap,” Mom magically acquires the skills over the course of one day, and makes a lot of bad decisions that result in serious injuries (and maybe even deaths) to innocent people who get between the red mini-van and those morons who took her son.
Aviron presents a film directed by Luis Prieto and written by Knate Lee. Rated R (for violence and peril). Running time: 81 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.