film review: kidnap

Kidnap: the premise is as simple as the title suggests. Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) and her son Frankie (Sage Correa) are enjoying an afternoon at the park when she receives a phone call from her divorce lawyer. Not wanting him to overhear the conversation, she steps away for a few moments after making him promise to stay put. However when her phone dies Karla cannot find him again; an increasingly frantic search leads her to the parking lot, where Frankie is stuffed into a car and spirited away. Rather than call for help, Karla jumps into her own vehicle and gives chase. Mayhem ensues as the two cars race out of New Orleans and deep into rural southeastern Louisiana.

Halle Berry as Karla Dyson in Kidnap

The sole strong point of the movie is the hour of high speed pursuits that make up the bulk of its runtime. The action is decently choreographed and provides sufficient thrills before the inevitable showdown between mom and kidnappers. Unfortunately, it is during these chase scenes that the weakness of Knate Lee’s script also shines. Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry is reduced to shouting “Oh God!” in varying pitches and promising a picture of the absent Frankie that she won’t give up. Overacting meets poor dialogue in a regretful mix, the results sometimes so poor as to elicit laughs during supposedly tense scenes. The two villains, played by Chris McGinn and Lew Temple, are often isolated in the other car. Their periodic appearances mostly go through the expected paces, with the exception of a surprise appearance to kick off the final act. All of these characters are as smart or as stupid as the screenplay requires at the time, tools in service of a thin idea rather than ends unto themselves.

(Kidnap's most impressive performance comes courtesy of the Chrysler Town & Country, which takes a thorough beating yet somehow manages to stay relatively unscathed as Karla’s pursuit vehicle for much of the film.)

Normally films set in New Orleans get an added little boost from such a unique backdrop. It is unfortunate that Kidnap does not take advantage of the city or the countryside surrounding it in any meaningful way. Those familiar with the area might notice that the chase actually makes a loop around the city before, somehow, winding up south of Baton Rouge.

There are certainly worse action films one could spend their time taking in. Kidnap takes a well-worn conceit that has already been given excellent treatment elsewhere and turns in a lazy attempt. Fans of cinematic car chases might find enough redemption in the action, but don’t expect much in the way of originality or effort.

RATING: ½ star

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