I was debating if I should review this one or not. Mainly because every single review I’ve seen of this film has torn it apart. Critics hate this movie so much it got me thinking maybe I watched a different cut than what’s in theaters. See, much like the Mandy Moore shark film 47 Meters Down, which was released on demand months before it hit theaters, so was Kidnap.
After watching the trailer, I was interested, I mean how long has it been since I’ve seen Halle Berry in something? Last I can think of was that terrible tv series she was in Extant and The Call, a film with a similar plot to Kidnap.
I don’t hate Halle Berry or anything, but I’m not dying to find every movie she’s been in either.
Months before the theatrical release, I was able to watch Kidnap on demand and honestly I fucking loved it. I found it insanely thrilling. It did remind me a lot of Breakdown with Kurt Russell, especially towards the end when she tracks the kidnappers to their home. But besides that, I was fully entertained. When you watch a film like this, that’s exactly what you want, to be entertained.
Maybe because I watched this on a tv in the privacy of my own couch, it gave me a different experience than those who had to see it at the theater. It felt very cinematic as I was watching it, not like something you’d find straight to video these days or something made to play overseas like that stinker Collide Felicity Jones was in. Or like the other movie I mentioned 47 Meters Down. A film that no way should have been in theaters.
Kidnap starts out a bit rocky however. It opens with an extended sequence of Halle Berry’s character Karla working her waitressing job. A lot about her character isn’t all that known. Mostly you have to piece things together from conversations she has. You learn she’s a newly divorced parent, making it sound like she hasn’t been doing this waitressing job very long or really working in general. Her husband seems rich, maybe she didn’t need to work and was a stay at home mom, but now that they’re separated, she needs to make her own way.
All of this is conveyed over a phone conversation with her ex. He is battling her in court for full custody of her son Frankie. Who I wasn’t sure if he had mental disabilities, seeing as he acts way younger than he is. I forget how old he is meant to be in the film, but he looks about 8. But I think he is meant to be much much younger since I believe he still rides around in a child safety seat.
We aren’t left with enough time to get fully annoyed by the kid, but if we had to keep switching back to him and his kidnappers, I feel I could get a little frustrated by him. He isn’t the best actor, so much so I wasn’t sure if he was Halle Berry’s own kid who she forced into the role.
But no, just another terrible kid actor. Completely unrelated to Halle Berry.
Karla (Halle Berry) needs to get off this long work shift because Frankie wants to go to the park. There seems to be a festival going on with music, balloons and face painting…
Another hint that Karla is newly poor is the fact she drives a fancy Minivan. I’m not sure how much one of those costs, but I’m assuming more than what a waitress makes. Maybe the minivan was the only thing she got in the divorce. Feel free to correct me in minivan expenses.
The film does find a way to toss in a few redharrings here and there. First you think maybe the kidnappers might be the couple Karla pissed off at the start of the film. But they seemed too preppy to be driving the shitbucket the kidnappers are driving.
Then you suspect it was the creepy guy who sits down next to Karla while Frankie is playing.
Another theory popped into my mind as well. Maybe it was her ex-husband. When Frankie is actually kidnapped, Karla has her back turned because she gets a phone call from her divorce lawyer saying her ex wants full custody.
What if he had his own son kidnapped to make her look bad in court, so theyd rule to give him full custody of the kid?
I found my mind going to these places, trying to figure out who the kidnappers are and mostly the reason why they kidnapped him. What are they going to do to him? Whatever it is it won’t be good.
As her back is turned, Frankie wanders off looking for her. Though she was literally right behind him. All he had to do was turn around. He finds a woman claiming she knows where his mommy is and wanted him to come with her.
You can see why I thought maybe the kid was suffering from a case of the bad brains. I mean, has he never watched a safety video at school about talking to strangers? They still do that at schools, right? Stranger danger!
Get in his car, Billy!
It’s because of videos like these that I still don’t answer the door or the phone for that matter. But I’d still gladly take free candy from anyone. It’s free fuckin’ candy, of course I’m taking it!
Thankfully Karla was able to spot Frankie before he is taken into the kidnapper’s car, even jumping on it as it speeds off.
She drops her phone during the struggle, I mean, she needed to lose it. If she had her phone the whole time the movie would be a lot shorter than it already is.
She’s driving after the kidnappers, unable to tell anyone else what is happening. To pedestrians it kind of seems like she lost her mind. She’s yelling at passing cars, swerving her car all around, pushing that minivan as fast as it can go. It’s a minivan, so I have no idea how fast that really is. 60… maybe 70 miles an hour?
And now the film is just a 70 minute nonstop chase sequence. It’s no Fury Road but it did have me on the edge of my seat. Mainly because of how easy it is to put yourself in her shoes. She’s tailing them sure, but what can she do if she catches up to them?
The windows are tinted, so you can’t see much of what’s happening in the kidnapper’s car. She doesn’t have a phone, she can’t call for help. She tries banging on a few windows to cars waiting at stop signs. But all they know is some crazy lady is banging on their car.
She doesn’t have any kind of weapon, plus she doesn’t know if the kidnappers do. Which later you see they have a knife, which is pressed against her kid’s throat.
She can’t ram the car, what if she ends up hurting Frankie in the process? All she can really do at this point is follow them. She is able to grab the attention of a biker cop, but things don’t exactly end well for him, getting crushed between two cars.
After that, the kidnappers pull over, even getting out of the car. We don’t get much of them, but they even look like vile trailer trash. They just kidnapped a kid and they look like meth heads, for all we know they’re child killers too. You love to hate these scumbags, even if they get very little screentime.
Karla tries her best to try and get the kidnappers to let Frankie go. Even offering them her credit cards. They take the deal, but only if the fat female kidnapper rides with Halle Berry. Obviously this is a trap, but they have her kid, I’m not sure what other options she has. Though at one point she had the perfect opportunity to run one of the kidnappers down, but chickens out. At this point I guess she figures maybe she can still reason with them.
The female kidnapper rides in the back with Karla and as they enter a tunnel, she tries to strangle her from behind. But never underestimate the power of the minivan!
Somehow Karla is able to get out of the stranglehold and shoves fatty out of the van. She’s still alive but at least now there’s only one kidnapper Karla needs to worry about.
Flash forward a bit to the end.
The ending is a bit of a tonal shift. The film up until now has been this nonstop action thriller. But as soon as Karla chases the kidnappers to their creepy Texas Chainsaw home, the tone switches to almost a horror film.
Karla has just now killed the kidnapper, though Frankie wasn’t in the car, meaning he must have dropped the kid off somewhere close by.
She must have some kind of sixth sense when it comes to her boy because she instantly homes in on his location. Fatty lady kidnapper is still alive and is getting things ready for the kid. She’s selling him off to some creepoid, what he does with them I don’t really want to think about. But it seems like something they do regularly.
Karla manages to get the better of fatty kidnapper, killing her with her own shotgun. Or drowned her… I can’t remember which. Both maybe.
But she was keeping the kids- that’s right I said kids up in a shed out back. They have a whole bushel of kids up in the shed’s attic. She sets them free as the cops finally arrive. That’s our movie, folks.
There really wasn’t too much to it. The plot was pretty simplistic, but that didn’t matter. I was too wrapped up in what was going to happen next, how was she going to stop this car? How is she going to get her kid back? There was never a time I thought she wouldn’t save Frankie but that wasn’t the point. The point really was HOW she was going to do it. It all goes back to character motivation. Her goal was so damn clear. We get what she is trying to do. It also helped to have some truly disgusting antagonist. They kidnapped a kid, their reasons are unknown, but you can guess it isn’t to buy him a new puppy.
On a technical aspect, I didn’t really notice a lot of the things other reviews have pointed out. I didn’t notice the choppy editing, some even comparing it to a Taken sequel shaky cam. Normally that shit bugs me and am quick to notice it. But here I didn’t.
Also didn’t notice the obvious ADR. Some reviewers claiming the film felt unfinished. I never got a sense of that. Relativity, the company that produced the film went bankrupt, putting a few of the films it had in the pipeline on hold or shelved. I believe Masterminds and The Disappointments Room were a few other titles that suffered the same fate.
Masterminds I actually really enjoyed, Disappointments Room can fuck right off.
Kidnap however I think is extremely fun. Maybe not go to the theater to see fun, but if you catch it on demand or on Netflix, it is worth checking out.
Want EARLY access to our videos, uploads, and movie/script reviews? Members get them FIRST! Follow this link to our Discussion Forum.
And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.