Given her recent track record onscreen, it’s getting harder to remember that Halle Berry is an Oscar-winning actress. Her latest is sadly reminiscent of her unpalatable 2013 action flick, “The Call,” in which she played a traumatized 911 operator trying to save a kidnapped girl. Here she’s a traumatized mother who will go to any lengths to save her kidnapped son. With apologies to Garrett Morris’ Chico Escuela, “Kidnap” is Berry, Berry bad.
Berry plays Karla Dyson, a divorced mom waiting tables—and dealing with snooty customers—at a homey diner. Her main preoccupation is raising her cute-as-a-button son Frankie (Sage Correa), whom she takes to a kids’ amusement park when her shift finally ends, keeping him within sight with the old “Marco Polo” routine. Leaving him alone for a few minutes while she takes an important call from her lawyer—her ex-husband is seeking full custody, the cad!—she’s distracted while little Frankie is abducted.
But she sees the boy being dragged into a hotshot old Mustang and takes off after it in her maternal mini-van. (Naturally, she’s shown dropping her cell phone on the asphalt in the process, leaving her unable to call the cops—a lucky break for scripter Knate Lee, who otherwise would have to close things at the twenty minute mark with the arrest of the villains.)
The rest of the movie follows Karla as she chases the kidnappers—a seedy couple named Margo (Chris McGinn) and Terry (Lew Temple)—leaving plenty of wrecked cars and injured (perhaps dying) people in her wake. (Only one person matters here, you see.) Her decisions may not always be the best, but she’s super-determined—a real Momma Grizzly—and the final act finds her confronting the kidnappers (and their snarling dog) in the rustic environs of their isolated house. No prize for guessing how things turn out.
“Kidnap” is basically an extended car-chase movie, and director Luis Prieto and cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano do a pretty good job choreographing the vehicular mayhem on the Louisiana turnpikes and back roads. (Part of the state’s tax-benefit agreement must be to focus on the Louisiana license plates as many times as possible, though whether in this case the advertising is positive is doubtful.) Avi Youabian’s feverish editing and Federico Jusid’s pounding score add to the energy level. But even at its best, the movie doesn’t come close to matching touchstones like Stephen Spielberg’s “Duel” as an excitement engine, and the final face-off is decidedly flat.
Berry emotes—sorry, over-emotes—to beat the band, while McGinn and Temple make a perfectly loathsome pair of slimeballs and Correa is a likable kid. (The rest of the cast are pretty much relegated to walk-ons.)
Ultimately the pulpy, preposterous “Kidnap” is a B-movie that’s not elevated from its humble status by the presence of a star whose name still carries a whiff of prestige. It could, however, strike a chord with adrenaline junkies looking for some cheap vicarious thrills, especially parents who might watch it haunted by that old public service line, “It’s ten o’clock—do you know where your children are?”