By: Hawk Ripjaw (Four Beers) –
Kidnap is the timeless thriller of one mom, and her quest to save her child through the power of a Chrysler Town and Country™.
Did you know that a Chrysler Town and Country™ is capable of going offroad at any time, tearing the fuck out of a small 60’s hatchback without harming the child inside, and jumping from 40 to 60 MPH in a mere crash zoom?
Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is a single mom working at a restaurant, dropping sick burns on her shitty customers and raising her son Frankie. The movie tells us how much she loves him through a lengthy home video montage in which Karla documents every second of Frankie’s life. Cut to present time: in the midst of an apparently unending, soulless game of “Marco Polo” at the fair, Karla has to step away to take a call from her ex-husband’s lawyer, seeking full custody. Karla angrily says “If he thinks he can take my son….” before realizing that somebody has literally just taken her son. In pursuit, Karla immediately loses her phone, and has no choice but to put the pedal to the metal in her Chrysler Town and Country™ and get her son back herself.
No matter what she’s in (unless it’s an X-Men movie or Swordfish, both of whose directors probably didn’t even mention silly things like “emoting”), Halle Berry is still a pretty damn good actress, and even with some of the ridiculous shit she has to do and say in Kidnap, she’s still convincing. While she’s probably the only objectively good thing about the movie, she’s far from the only entertaining one.
There are some great bad-movie moments here: there are horror-movie jumpscares, a bystander confused over whether Karla’s sun is named “Frankie” or “Marco,” the unreasonably excessive (though not graphic for an R-rated film) collateral damage, Karla’s sudden and hilarious shift into Liam Neeson mode, and assorted other bizarre beats which make Kidnap absolutely worth a watch for bad movie lovers, for the most part.
There’s an idea here, but not much else. Kid gets kidnapped, mom tries to save him… credits? The movie moves between events and scenes but doesn’t really seem invested in what happens, making everything completely surface level. There’s nothing to feed into the rift between Karla and her ex-husband, so there’s really nothing of substance in his fight for custody, or even a good reason given for it. In fact, it takes barely fifteen minutes for Frankie to get kidnapped: everything beforehand is rushed out of the way so the movie can get to the “good stuff.” While there’s certainly nothing wrong with a lean narrative, even the best of those have characters that feel real. They help drive the movie and have their emotions guide their actions rather than just have a vacuum of loud action beats and close-ups of Karla’s terrified face.
Maybe there’s a reason these crazy rednecks are kidnapping children. Maybe they are victims themselves, maybe they’re being coerced, or maybe they have their own self-centered, sinister reasons for doing it. Whatever it is, they’re not saying, and it erases any sort of nuance we could have gotten from them. Maybe 10 more minutes of movie could have given them something interesting to work with, adding more of a dynamic AND still clocking in at under two hours. Instead, a man that looks like Johnny Depp in disguise in the 21 Jump Street remake and a woman that looks like Melissa McCarthy dyed her hair blonde to star in The Hills Have Eyes just….sorta….take kids. There’s a five minute throwaway exchange in which one of them is yelling at “the middleman” on the phone, but there’s nothing else. You can give villains motives and dimension without trying to make child abductors seem sympathetic, but Kidnap either doesn’t know how or doesn’t care. As a result it makes the experience feel extremely thin.
The movie is edited in such a way that it actually feels unfinished. Specifically, an early scene finds a random slightly overweight male stranger with his shirt unbuttoned halfway down casually asking Karla how old Frankie was, before chuckling and staring at the kid. The shot on his face holds far too long, and feels like clumsy foreshadowing for the villain reveal. As it turns out, this man never appears again. The weird tendency for shots to hold too long is one in a very shallow bag of cinematic tricks: the go-to technique for intense moments is a bass drop and sudden slow-mo. It’s all terribly generic, save for one inexplicable slow-zoom dutch angle set to a very surreal stretch of music. For no reason. I still don’t know what the fuck the movie was trying to convey with that.
Kidnap comes incredibly close to being a shlock classic, and in many ways it gets the job done, clocking in at a breezy 90 minutes and ending without leaving much of an impression. If you’re like me, that’s a bit disappointing, because I’ve been salivating over this movie ever since the first trailer over a year ago. I specifically sought this out for another deliriously stupid Incarnate-style romp, but it never quite reaches those heights. Apart from a couple of very specific things, it’s not really all that offensively bad, either. It’s just a generally forgettable, mostly poor and basic action thriller. You don’t have to chase after this one.
But that shlock. That beautiful shlock.
Kidnap (2017) Movie Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Karla screams
Take a Drink: whenever Karla talks to herself
Do a Shot: every time someone is injured or killed as a direct result of Karla’s actions
Take a Drink: for every instance of the sound dipping out/bass drop or a switch to slow-motion
Do a Shot: every time Karla goes off-road in the Chrysler Town and Country™
Take a Drink: every time Karla yells “Frankie” or “Marco”