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edge staff writer


Mis-Taken - ‘Kidnap’

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Berry bomb bland, befuddling and boring

We’ve come to accept the summertime as the clearinghouse for blockbusters. We see summer movies a certain way; we expect them to be franchise films with nine-figure budgets that feature movie stars and CGI explosions. And while the practice of including numbers after the title has largely fallen out of favor, we can’t help but add them in our heads.

But despite that overwhelming impression, summer movies aren’t ALL like that. There are usually a handful of comedies – usually raunchy R-rated stuff – and the odd original action movie or thriller. Sometimes, those more original offerings are fun surprises, proving entertaining at an unexpectedly high level.

And sometimes, they’re “Kidnap.”

The movie, which stars Halle Berry as a woman striving to save her son from kidnappers, is an oddly misconceived misfire. It’s the kind of movie whose premise starts at unlikely and immediately accelerates through ludicrous before all too quickly settling on absurdity. By the time it’s over, you’ll be shaking your head incredulously while smiling to yourself at the notion that this movie is ALMOST ridiculous enough to make its badness a pro rather than a con.

Emphasis on the “almost.”

Berry plays Karla, a woman going through a rough time. She’s going through a divorce and is making ends meet by waiting tables at a diner. She does have bright spots, though; the brightest being her son Frankie (Sage Correa, “Papa”).

One day, she takes Frankie out for an afternoon at the park. The pair are having a great time when Karla receives a call from her divorce attorney; she has to take the call and deal with her husband’s increased demands with regards to custody of their son. It’s a conversation that ends abruptly thanks to Karla’s cell battery dying out.

When she returns to her seat, Frankie is gone.

Frantic searching brings Karla to the parking lot just in time to see a woman (Chris McGinn, “Sight Unseen”) drag Frankie into a waiting car and speed away. After a failed effort to stop the car from leaving, she leaps into her minivan and takes off in pursuit.

Inconveniently for Karla – but quite conveniently for the plot – Karla’s earlier foot chase of the car caused her to lose her phone. This means that all she can do is follow the car and hope she can figure out a way to tell the authorities what is happening.

Which she does. For a LONG time.

It feels like we’re in that van with her, watching her drive and talk/mutter/shout to herself, for an eternity. We spend easily half the film’s 94-minute runtime – likely more - watching a paint-dryingly boring car chase, where the moments when something, you know, happens are remarkably infrequent. Oh, and usually utterly implausible to boot.

The chase becomes the hunt when Karla tracks the woman and her husband (Lew Temple, “The Endless”) to their home – the home where they could still be holding Frankie. There’s no time to wait for help – if anyone is going to save her son, it’s going to be her.

And that plays out in just a ridiculous fashion as everything else in this movie.

Imagine the movie “Taken,” only instead of watching Liam Neeson fighting vaguely Eastern European thugs for an hour, you watch Halle Berry shoutily drive her minivan in pursuit of a couple of hillbillies for an hour. That’s what “Kidnap” is, along with 15 minutes of shoddy exposition and 25 minutes of poorly-executed reverse home invasion business.

It’s so over-the-top that you’re left to wonder if maybe this was a deliberate choice on the part of the filmmakers. Did director Luis Prieto and screenwriter Knate Lee actually intend for the end product to be this schlocky, this campy, in hopes that it would entertain in some sort of meta sense? If so, it was an unsuccessful and misguided effort, but it would at least explain what happened here.

Berry’s performance is all turned-to-11 histrionics. Her strategy for carrying long stretches of the film with nothing but her head and shoulders behind the wheel seems to be simply: go big. So she does. Not with any sort of intention or motivation or variation. None of that for her. Nope, just … big. The rest of the cast – the kid, the hillbilly kidnappers, literally everyone else in the movie – doesn’t matter. There are other people in this film, but they could not be less impactful or memorable. Everyone in this movie exists solely to give Halle Berry a reason to bug her eyes and scream and maybe punch the steering wheel. They. Do. Not. Matter.

A meandering pace, a nothing plot, some nonsense action and an ultra-hammy lead performance – that’s what you get from “Kidnap.” With less self-seriousness and a LOT more self-awareness, this movie potentially could have succeeded in the so-bad-it’s-good sense. Instead, it’s just bad.

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