Halle Berry's new road-bound thiller, Kidnap, opens with a montage of home videos of a baby boy, Frankie, (narrated by an off-screen Berry) as he grows from squishy infant to super cute and still squishy toddler. No one else makes an appearance in the clips, and it becomes evident that the baby and his mother are on their own, with the child's father nowhere to be seen.
During an outing with her son, Berry’s character, Karla, literally takes six adult steps to the side to answer a call from her lawyer announcing that her ex is requesting full custody of their son. Her odds of losing full custody of Frankie are fairly high, as we all know custody battles can be messy and based on finances, and as Kayla is merely a waitress while her ex and his new lover are into real estate and pediatrics (respectively), Berry's character doesn't stand much of a chance. Then, her parental worst nightmare goes from inevitable custody battle to an absolute reality as her son is kidnapped right before her very eyes.
A formula that we’ve seen time and time again reveals itself with an element of normalcy this time, because Karla is a regular mom dressed in Old Navy boyfriend jeans and Converse sneakers. However, the most unbearable aspect to the film is the dialogue. The difficulty in writing honest dialogue, as the majority of the film is Berry chasing these unknown captors in her minivan by herself without her cell phone, is understable. But Lordt. What happened to the notion “show, don’t tell”? There were far too many declarations. We all talk to ourselves when no one else is around, but with many soliloquies like, “As long as my son is in that car, I will not stop. Wherever you go, I will be right behind you," you're left asking, doesn’t that go without saying? You’re chasing people down in a minivan on a highway, clearly you’ll stop at nothing. And also, who are you talking to — us or them...?
The humor (which certainly had to be intended, because if not — TUH, then the director definitely missed yet another mark) exists in the absurdity of the whole ordeal. One minute, she’s enjoying a fun day at a park/fair with her kid, the next she’s trying to save face as she gets the a call from her lawyer about the brewing custody battle for her son, and the next, some weirdo in a dingy flannel is stuffing her kid in the backseat of a beat-up '80s Mustang GT. In one scene early on in the car chase, Berry’s character Karla is tailing close behind her son’s captors when, suddenly, the trunk flies open, and one of the captors starts tossing out miscellaneous items, like a wrench, a crowbar, and a whole tire into traffic, creating calamity for everyone on the road. Karla screams, “Is no one else seeing this?” I guffawed.
Her protest, though comical, played up to the ridiculously long car chase. The high-speed chase swerving in and out of traffic that Karla was desperately trying to draw attention to lasted far too long. How has the highway law enforcement not been notified? Where are the patrol cops that are generally out watching for speeders that catch you when you’re running late for work?
Despite wasting numerous prime opportunities to really become a twisty, mindfuck thriller, the film does, however, do a phenomenal job of highlighting the fact that when you’re a hysterical woman trying to get help, everyone hesitates, like they are trying to figure out if you’re crazy or not. Instead of jumping to action, everyone she encounters does the “Ma’am, calm down” thing, “I cannot understand you when you’re yelling, even though you are articulating your problem quiet matter of factly, I still do not understand you.” Expect a lot of crashes and some regular people fighting. None of that “if-you-should-ever-find-yourself-in-this-position-” mess that surely goes out the window once your adrenaline gets pumping, but some regular, knock-down, “go-for-what-you-know” fighting. It’s about as realistic as one would imagine if they were thrust into the situation. Without giving away too much, though it is not much, the end wraps up in a violent crescendo with Karla being face-to-face with the abductors, and viewers are robbed of the why. The half-ass explanation is revealed in a series of off screen news reports just before the credits roll.
It wasn’t as terrible as I anticipated it to be... But, nonetheless, still just pretty okay.
Kidnap is out in theaters today, August 4.
Images via IMDB
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Bry'onna Mention is a digital editor at BUST and a wavvy womanist who is always ready to square up against misogynoir and respectability. She can usually be found running through the burbs with her ‘fro. Catch her on the internet at @radsadblackbry or firstname.lastname@example.org.