Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 24, 2017)
Though she became a star years ago, Halle Berry never showed the ability to act as a box office draw on her own. If you look at her biggest hits, she always played a supporting role. As the clear lead, 2003’s Gothika stands as Berry’s biggest success – and it nabbed a mediocre $59 million in the US.
2017’s Kidnap does nothing to change this status, as it essentially flopped. The movie earned a mere $30 million, so even with a low $21 million budget, it lost money.
Single mother Karla Dyson (Berry) takes her six-year-old son Franklin (Sage Correa) to a local fair. When she briefly steps away to take a phone call, Franklin disappears.
Karla sees the abductors in action, so she wastes no time. Rather than wait for police assistance, Karla goes after the kidnappers all on her own.
While not the most inventive plot ever, that seems like a decent setup for a thriller, and Kidnap’s brief running time seems like a potential asset. At a taut 82 minutes, the film leaves little room for anything other than action.
Or so you’d think, but Kidnap finds a way to meander with unnecessary tidbits along the way. For instance, we get a totally superfluous scene that shows Karla at work as a waitress.
This seems to exist just for some cheap laughs with the rude customers, and it adds nothing to our understanding of the characters. Sure, it shows that Karla struggles to make ends meet – I guess – but so what?
After that, we watch Karla and Franklin as they drive to the fair, and this also seems redundant. While it conveys basic plot points about Karla’s divorce, it mostly just reminds us how darned much Karla loves the kid – which we already know, as the opening credits show a series of home videos that illustrate their bond.
Granted, this material doesn’t take up that much space, and Franklin winds up abducted just past the movie’s 11-minute mark, so it’s not like we wait forever for the title to come true. Still, in a film that runs just 82 minutes, this seems like an inefficient use of space, especially since credits leave only about 75 minutes of actual story.
Once Franklin ends up abducted, does Kidnap catch fire? Yeah, to a certain degree, but it stretches credulity too much to maintain a real sense of excitement.
Some problems stem from the ample use of movie tropes. Car that runs out of gas? Check. Dead cell phone? Check – and so on.
I also find it stunning to see how many times Karla slams on the brakes in the middle of busy highways but never gets read-ended. Miraculous!
The film’s basic structure leaves Berry with little to do other than shriek and mumble to herself. I get the latter – we spend so much time alone in the car with Karla that the filmmakers need this form of self-dialogue to avoid silent movie status.
Couldn’t they have invented better lines for Berry to deal with, though? She declaims silly dialogue that becomes a goofy distraction.
As for the shrieking and hysterics, those may well be accurate – it’s tough to know how someone would actually behave in this circumstance. Nonetheless, so many shots of crying and screaming get old and make the movie more difficult to take.
Kidnap does manage enough action to offer occasional thrills. We get good stunts and driving, elements that sporadically add life to the proceedings.
But they’re not enough to sustain us – not even across the film’s brief running time. Kidnap winds up as a manic stab at a thriller that never achieves its goals.