Film Review: Kidnap

I really want to call this “Kidnapped” and it really bothers me that the movie is simply called Kidnap. This will have nothing to do with the content of this review; I just wanted to get that out there.

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is a single divorcee whose husband cheated on her (that’s never overtly explained but it’s heavily suggested) and left her for a younger woman, thus placing Berry as the caregiver to her young son Franklin. She works as many hours as possible at a cozy little restaurant with the worst customers in the world while devoting most of her day to her young son. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worst one day when her son is kidnapped during a day at the park. Karla jumps in her car and follows them beginning this high-octane chase movie that never lets up for a second regardless of how unashamedly dumb it can sometimes get in the process.

What to say about this movie or at least what I was expecting from this movie? Much like Unforgettable earlier this year it takes the sort of exploitative route through a very familiar ‘you messed with the wrong woman’ type of plot scenario. Halle Berry plays the role to a tee as we have seen her play strong yet vulnerable characters so many times before that she must have a default setting for it by now. Still, Berry is such a talented actress that it never feels as if she’s phoning it in no matter what the role (ok, maybe not Storm in the X-Men movies) or quality of the film. Her main struggle is the weak script that requires her to explain her mental state to the audience through monologues to herself while no other characters are around. Plot devices like that are so damn lazy; why not let us discover emotional states and motivation through the actions of the people involved rather than just hearing someone blatantly talk about it to themselves? It also feels incredibly phony and like something no one would actually do for that length of time.

The positive aspects of the film are the energy levels as it never really lets up for any given moment. After we get the brief introduction (also, can we get rid of the whole “jump into the middle of the movie, say ‘days earlier’ and then start it from the beginning device” – it’s getting hella old), the film jumps right into the main story of Berry pursuing the people who kidnapped her son. I will say that I genuinely appreciated that the movie doesn’t waste time giving us the traditional kidnap-type plot where Berry would file the report, go home, talk to police and receive threatening phone calls from the perpetrator(s). She becomes the aggressor from the very beginning and the film is all the more enthralling because of it.

Sometimes I would praise a movie for embracing a simplistic approach to a story like this and while I did feel like too much convoluted nonsense would’ve hurt this one, I also feel like it was TOO simple. We never really get a whole lot of back story on her character aside from the brief mention of her divorce and custody battle and we never really get a sense of why the kidnapping is going down aside from the usual reasons. Also, a few plot threads at the beginning of the film are mostly dropped for no reason other than the fact that they no longer serve as a focal point to the main plot. The villains themselves are very thinly-written characters that exist to just be villains and really nothing else. But here’s the thing – it’s still fun!

I had a good time with this big dumb movie from the neverending car chase sequences to the physical fights that Berry endures leading to the satisfying climax of the film. It’s an enjoyable time despite the movie being really, really dumb at times.

RATING: ***

 

Rating System:

Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)

* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)