‘Kidnap’ Is the Dumbest Movie of the Summer, But Oh God It’s Fun
There are bad movies. Then there are bad movies where Halle Berry screams and delivers monologues inside a minivan for an hour and a half.
In Kidnap, Berry plays Karla, a single mother whose son gets, you guessed it, kidnapped – but the title of this movie is in the present tense, because Karla sure as hell won’t let this kidnap(ping) become a thing of the past. She’s saving her kid, and she’s saving him right now.
While at the park with her son Frankie (Sage Correa), Karla steps away to take a phone call from her lawyer about her child custody case. Karla and Frankie have a little game to make sure he never gets too far; she shouts “Marco,” and he responds with “Polo.” Only this time when Karla calls out the first name of the Venetian traveller, there’s no answer. Frankie is gone, everything spirals, the camera spins (Is the camera operator drunk?) and Karla launches into full-blown panic, shouting “Marco!” around the park. “Is your son’s name Marco or Frankie?” a understandably confused passerby inquires. But Karla has no time to explain herself, she’s got to find her son damn it!
Suddenly Karla spots a cliché — excuse me, a redneck woman — shoving her child into the backseat of a green (it’s more blue, but whatever, Karla calls it green) Mustang. Is this mother going to stand there, frozen in shock, as she watches a car pull away with her son inside? If you answered yes to that question, my friend, you might as well close this review right now because Halle Berry can’t stop won’t stop until her son is safe and sound. Karla grabs onto the car’s roof rack and holds on for an impressive amount of time until tumbling to the ground and dropping her phone. She runs to her minivan and the next 30 minutes follow a high-speed chase across a Louisiana highway. Karla goes it alone though, unable to call the cops since her phone is gone – “Where is my phone?!” she shouts more than once in case you missed director Luis Prieto’s close-up.
Ninety percent of this movie is Halle Berry reciting exposition to herself in the car. (Obviously screenwriter Knate Lee, a producer on Bad Grandpa and various Jackass films, wrote this as an homage to the eloquent, introspective dialogue from Tom Hardy’s Locke.) When she’s not screaming, “Oh god, Oh god, OH GOD!” behind the wheel – I would pay good money to see the raw footage of Berry shooting these reaction shots – she’s literally praying to god, and also asking someone various questions. “Did you see that?!” she yells when the kidnappers throwing a tool box at her car. “Does anybody see this?!” she exclaims. (Yes, Halle. Yes we did.)
But let’s not kid ourselves. Berry isn’t the only star of this film. She shares just as much screen time with her costar: a red Chrysler minivan. I am convinced Kidnap is not actually a real movie, but a 82 minute Chrysler commercial about how indestructible their cars are. This minivan is the Robin to Karla’s Batman, the Chewie to her Han Solo, the Garth to her Wayne. It somehow manages to keep up with a Mustang, it gets hit and crashed into repeatedly, the windows are shatterproof, the reclining seat literally saves Karla’s life, the E-break helps her kill someone, and finally, after this car is out of gas and nearly demolished, the internal GPS system somehow still works. Then a bruised and bleeding Karla emerges, pauses, and gives the hood two gentle but deeply sincere taps, as if thanking an old friend for their honorable sacrifices. If you’re a mother and you don’t own a Chrysler minivan, what the hell are you even doing with your life?
On a more serious note (because Berry is very serious in this movie) Kidnap is a pile of late summer movie season garbage. This trashy low-budget thriller has hardly any plot, zero character development, laughable dialogue, and distractingly poor directing – at one point the frame tilts to a dutch angle so severe I thought the operator accidentally dropped the camera. It's too stupid to be insensitive, and eventually turns into a dumb version of True Detective Season 1. But Berry nonetheless pours her heart and soul into the film and tries her darndest to turn the material into something decent. (Can someone write this Oscar winner a meaty role again, please?). There's certainly a thrill to watching a single woman lead a movie where she's chasing down criminals like an unstoppable killing machine. Is Kidnap inane? Totally. But fun? You bet.