I will admit I was genuinely angry after watching this film. Movies with interesting premises always seem to fall flat and succumb to baffling laziness. I hated this movie in the first 30 minutes or so after seeing it. However, upon some reflection I came to this conclusion; Kidnap is awful, but not totally useless. Mostly, it is Halle Berry’s commitment to the material and some fleeting thrills that make it not a total waste of time. Much like Atomic Blonde failed to live up to the “Jane Wick” promises of its marketing, Kidnap isn’t the female version of Taken.
Berry tries incredibly hard to use her talent to elevate the material. However, sometimes you can’t fix whats broken. Berry plays Karla, who’s six-year-old son Frankie is kidnapped by a couple. Karla begins to chase the couple down in pursuit to rescue her son. There isn’t much depth to the character. Besides the kidnapping, Karla works at a diner where every patron is the worst person ever and her off screen, soon to be ex-husband is filing for sole custody of Frankie. It’s an infuriating set of plot points that only serve to make Karla relatable. It works to some degree, but inherently we should already feel sympathy for someone who’s child was kidnapped.
The movie has a brisk 82 minute runtime, yet only because director Luis Prieto and writer Knate Lee didn’t know what else to put in the film besides the core plot points. There is a good 20-30 minutes of what seems like filler in this movie. It’s almost as if the first cut of the film was 65 minutes and they tried to add anything to the film in an attempt to milk out a theatrical runtime. Lean run times aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Kidnap had potential to be a breezy action flick that offered non-stop fun. Taken fit that bill. Taken, is fun though, something that cannot be said about this movie.
It takes a near 75 minutes for Kidnap to have anything you’d expect it to have. The last 10 minutes or so are actually surprisingly thrilling. Ultimately, two-thirds of this movie is a car chase. Most of the time, car chases are thrilling. Yet, nearly all of the car chase drama is focused on wide shots of Berry chasing the kidnappers, and close up shots of Berry muttering to herself what action she’s going to take next. It’s as if Lee felt the need to hold the audiences hand to tell them what exactly is going to happen next.
Lee also introduces tropes you’d find in any thriller. Of course, on the way out to the car to begin the chase, Karla drops her phone. Which of course means that she can only chase the car and hope to catch them without anyway of contacting the cops. It’s a sentiment we understand. The kidnappers have her son, and there is no way she would ever let them out of sight. However, it is the flimsy set-up that degrades the films potential. We are also introduced to insanely convenient twists and turns.
The movies editing is insanely sloppy. There are several sequences of quick jump cuts that show the speedometer accelerating and other tricks that cheapen the quality of the film. All the quick cuts make that short runtime feel like an eternity. Pacing should never be an issue in a movie like this. In many ways Kidnap does deliver on the promises of its marketing campaign. It is fast paced, only in the sense that for nearly 45 minutes, the movies car chase never relents. There are also some clever plot devices that Berry’s character comes up with in her quest to rescue Frankie.
What more can be said? Kidnap is an awful film. There are some people who have found the movie to be a fun time. I am not one of those people. This movie was delayed many times after bankruptcy hit Relativity, the films first distributor. The film was ultimately distributed by Aviron, a lesser known company. Surely, Berry’s power as an executive producer likely got this film made. Kidnap adds to a weekend of generic films (like The Dark Tower) that may signal the end of a summer movie season that was actually satisfying for once.