In this movie about a heroic mom who rescues her son from mysterious, violent kidnappers, we are given little more than anxiety-riddled car chase scenes. For failing to bring anything of cinematic merit to the proverbial table, Kidnap earns a bland 1 out of 5.
Karla (Halle Berry) is a devoted single mom caring for her 6-year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa). While at a festival with Frankie, she steps away for just a moment to field a phone call. Upon returning, she finds Frankie gone, but manages to catch a glimpse of a strange woman stuffing him into a car. She wastes no time in hopping in her own van to pursue the abductors, and spends the rest of the film refusing to give up on rescuing her son.
The best thing to be said about Kidnap is that it knows the recipe and sticks to it. Lines are predictable, tension rises and falls formulaically. Berry gives a frantic and heartfelt (though exhausting) performance, but it’s only a matter of when the triumphant ending will arrive, not how.
The movie just manages to stave off boredom by inserting plenty of loud crashes and suspenseful, high-intensity sequences. However, because we are thrown immediately into the action, Kidnap is completely reliant on its premise, its leading character and its action to draw us in and provide a unique spark of some kind.
There are good films which take place mostly in a car, or revolve around a single chase, or that involve characters for whom we don’t get backstory. But this is no Duel or Speed. Kidnap simply lacks an intriguing mystery, or a bizarre enough scenario, or a fascinating enough lead character to draw us in the way it needs to. Instead, it gives us anxiety: through the scenario; an anxious, panicked hero; and forcing us to watch her (anxiously) for an hour-and-a-half while she pursues her desperate mission.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
Karla is defined by her grace and determination. She encourages her son to become friends with his dad’s new girlfriend, even though her divorce and custody battle seem difficult. Then she spends most of the film pursuing her child’s abductors; even as others are hurt or killed around her in the mess, she remains single-focused. During one scene, she offers a familiar prayer of desperation (“Hey God, I know I never pray to you unless somebody is sick or dying…”) where she bargains that she will “never ask” for another thing so long as God helps her in her mission to keep her son in her sights.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: R for violence and peril
- Language/Profanity: One use of the F-word and an exclamation of “son of a b—-“.
- Sexuality/Nudity: None. A woman’s blouse rustles around during the action, exposing more midriff or chest than if she was standing still, but nothing at all sexual.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: The film revolves around car chases and is packed with perilous situations. There are car crashes, sudden stops, flying objects, near-accidents, suspenseful chases, people dangling out of – or being dragged by – cars, some threatening movements with guns and knives, and dead or injured bodies shown. However, there is minimal blood and no gore – it rides more on loud noises than graphic violence. A woman drowns another woman. A woman knocks a man unconscious (or perhaps kills him) with a blow from a shovel. A ring of human trafficking is exposed. Children watch and listen to much of this violence.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Honestly, it’s hard to recommend Kidnap even to casual moviegoers. The woman next to me in the theatre noticed my notebook, leaned over during the credits, and asked, “Are you a film critic? You should write about how bad this movie was.” I couldn’t disagree. Maybe if it ever comes on TV you could give it a shot for a few minutes if car-related-anxiety is your thing, but it’s not a movie you pay to see.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Movie buffs; a date movie; an evening with Mom; lovers of engaging and unique action flicks. Incidentally: for those who may be expecting a clever turnabout on the Liam Neeson Taken movies (single mother saves son, instead of single father saves daughter), unfortunately, I’m that rare critic who never saw Taken. However, I’ve noted in other reviews that the overall similarities between the two films aren’t actually strong. The character development and overall scope of Taken seems much larger; whereas in Kidnap, we’re pretty much confined to watching Berry shriek and give herself pep talks while driving.
Debbie Holloway is a storyteller, creator, critic and advocate having adventures in Brooklyn, New York.
Publication date: August 4, 2017
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