Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller,
Director: Luis Prieto
Cast: Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, Lew Temple
Release Date: August 4th, 2017
In the 2008 blockbuster Taken, Liam Neeson’s character was a retired CIA agent. The character knew how to fight and when terrorists kidnapped his teenage daughter, they didn’t know what they were getting into. In the new film Kidnap, Halle Berry’s main character is a waitress. She doesn’t have a background fighting bad guys but when her six-year-old son is kidnapped, the criminals don’t know what they are getting into.
The plot of both films are similar but they are notably different because of the careers of their main characters. While Neeson’s character’s actions were informed by his background and training, Berry’s character is powered predominantly by her maternal instinct and that’s enough to keep her fighting.
Berry stars as Karla Dyson, a mother in the midst of a separation from her husband. Her son Frankie (Sage Correa) is her main focus and the feature’s opening moments focus on her affection for him as he grew up. She loves him more than anything. During an innocuous-seeming trip to the park though, Frankie is abducted and Karla witnesses the kidnapping.
What follows is a seemingly-unending chase pitting Karla against the kidnappers.
As soon as Frankie is captured, director Luis Prieto throws his characters right into the action. Frankie chases after her son and the chase barely slows down during this film’s short 81-minute run time. “As long as my son is in that car, I will not stop,” she tells the kidnappers after a wild chase sequence.
The action slows down during a few select but intense encounters between Frankie and the kidnappers but for the most part, this is a film that heavily relies on car chases, explosions and excitement.
The script by Knate Lee is secondary to the action. The characters are quickly introduced at the film’s beginning but we don’t learn much about Frankie other than a few superficial notes here and there. Frankie loves her son. She’s going through a divorce. Frankie’s father wants primary custody. This is nearly all we know about the main character. But that’s enough for an action-focused thriller like this to work.
Kidnap cuts out much character development to focus on efficiency. This is a film that knows its primary audience and wants to satisfy them. And it should. Prieto knows how to craft solid action scenes and long chase sequences that keep the momentum moving. He even makes some great surprising choices (including featuring that early confrontation between Frankie and the kidnappers) that keep the audience a little off-balance. There are some solid surprises here and it helps that the villains here don’t seem invincible. They don’t keep coming back from deadly accidents like other movie villains seem to.
The real driving force of the film is undoubtedly Berry, who previously hunted down a kidnapper in the mediocre thriller The Call. Kidnap, which never loses its sense of purpose, is a stronger feature than that. It delivers what a thriller should and with Berry in the lead (and the camera effectively capturing her intense performance), it maintains a sense of legitimacy and undeniable urgency even when the car crashes and the carnage piles up.
Review by: John Hanlon