“I’m gonna have to let them take you.”
Filmed back in 2014 and shelved until its untimely recent release, Kidnap is so cheap, so thoroughly exploitative and dumb that I honestly can’t believe it managed to graduate towards a nationwide roll-out despite its almost entirely failing report card. By combining the worst elements of the seriously overrated movie Taken and the cut-rate quality of a direct to VOD thriller sequel, Kidnap is a Polaroid picture that didn’t deserve to be developed or even seen by audiences, let alone by the light of day. Very few movies in 2017 have equaled or will likely surpass this one’s sheer idiocy.
Life hasn’t been very kind to Karla (Halle Berry). Her well-to-do ex-husband is now with a successful new woman and seeks sole custody of their son Frankie (Sage Correa). Meanwhile Karla struggles with her work as a waitress at a little diner, shown to us in an opening sequence that gives us zero character detail and is as demonstratively terrible as the job itself. Then she and Frankie go visit the park, Karla takes a phone call concerning her custody battle, and Frankie comes up missing. As Karla sees her son stuffed into a stranger’s car across the parking lot, her maternal panic feels real because Berry is a great actress (as well as the movie’s only positive note). From there though, Kidnap is an endless ride along a hellish, bumpy, self-destructive roundabout. It practically parades its worst qualities.
Luis Prieto’s film is as carefully calibrated to manipulate moviegoers into fits of shocks and squirms as it is shamelessly and intellectually corrupt. This chase driven catastrophe begins with endless opening credits which spew footage of Frankie from birth to his adolescence and pivots towards a Momma bear desperately trying to save her cub. Is it effective? Yes, in a primordial sense, and about as personal as a picture frame still housing the stock photo. The setup is supposed to suffuse and blanket the rest of this one-note and painfully empty mother-son dynamic with some level of humanity, but Prieto’s movie has no pulse and no heart behind its pedal to the floor endeavors. Bad films can sometimes be endearing; Kidnap is no such case.
There’s a scene early on that is integral to the film, one that had it been handled differently could have potentially rooted this campy story in rich soil instead of bedrock. Karla sees Frankie being abducted, sprints to her mini-van, and a gorgeous cut splices us into the back seat with her. It’s effective and places viewers in a temporary stranglehold. And had Kidnap stuck to this creative approach, unfolding entirely in the confines of a soccer mom ride with an Academy Award winning actress selling this crap as best as she can, it would have been more personal and more intriguing and infinitely less ridiculous. Instead, Kidnap ops for wafer-thin antagonists stereotyped as rednecks, poorly directed action, hilarious self-reflection, and a film that belongs in the Wal-Mart $5 bin. I’d be thankful that it’s so fleeting and forgettable if it wasn’t so curt, inept, and grossly miscalculated.
“This is really bad. This is the grossest place I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Rating: 0.5 out of 5