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Playing the determined ‘Kidnap’ mom ‘struck a chord’ for Halle Berry

Halle Berry stars in "Kidnap." | Aviron Pictures

Don’t mess with Halle Berry’s kid.

The “X-Men” star and former Bond girl will come after you with everything she has, as seen in trailers for the thriller “Kidnap” (in theaters Aug. 4).

Berry plays Karla Dyson, a mother frantically trying to find her son, Frankie, after he’s kidnapped from a park — a hot pursuit that requires throwing her minivan into reverse on the highway to backtrack to an exit. Berry even swings a lethal shovel and utters the Schwarzenegger-esque line “You took the wrong kid.”

“That’s my Arnold moment,” says Berry, 50. “I’m strong with the shovel.”

She’s also strong in spirit. Berry campaigned vigorously for 2013 California legislation that protects celebrities’ children from paparazzi. It’s a cause so passionate to her that Berry named her 606 Films production company after the successful state Senate bill, SB 606.

Berry acknowledges she was “feeling fiery and determined” when the “Kidnap” script arrived in 2014. The story of a mother fighting to pull her son from the clutches of predators “struck a chord,” says Berry, who produces and stars in her first leading screen role since 2013’s “The Call.” (“Kidnap’s” release was delayed by financier Relativity Media’s bankruptcy proceedings, and the film ultimately was acquired by new distributor Aviron Pictures.)

The thriller revolves entirely around Karla, who is forced to save her son on her own. The fact that Frankie is played by Sage Correa, now 9 and the same age as Berry’s daughter, Nahla, made the emotional connection even stronger.

“Being a parent, I understood this in a very visceral way. I play an ordinary mom forced to act in extraordinary ways,” says Berry, who also has a 3-year-old son, Maceo. “I got to put in a little of what Halle Berry would do in this situation. That was fun.”

Berry spent weeks inside Karla’s Chrysler minivan shooting on location in New Orleans. She drove during the chases, with a stunt driver controlling the maneuvers from a roof pod.

Having the star at the wheel adds believability for the audience, says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (“Transformers”). Berry’s freaked-out reactions were very real.

“There’s a lot of Halle driving here, but that really crazy driving, we left to the professionals,” di Bonaventura says. “She can kick serious butt out of the car.”

Her ultimate moment came in the scene where Karla hurtles her vehicle backward on Louisiana’s Huey P. Long Bridge. The bridge was closed, but real cars (with stunt drivers) were flying toward her.

“Driving backward in highway traffic, that was a first for me,” Berry says. “That looking-back visual of cars speeding toward you at 80 miles per hour, your heart leaves your body.”

Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY