Kidnap’s marketing campaign hasn’t necessarily been subtle about its ambitions either by trying to align it with Taken as much as possible, highlighting some of Berry’s (very few) memorable one-liners in its trailers and focusing purely on the high-speed pursuit she engages in after her young son is taken from her. Thanks to the film’s rather tight 82-minute run time as well, the potential is there for Kidnap to be the lean mean action thriller that makes for a fun trip to the theater during this tail end period of the summer season.
Kidnap is being promoted as the Halle Berry-led version of Taken, and it’s not hard to see why. The two films do, after all, share the same basic premise of a parent refusing to give up in their pursuit of their stolen child and the monsters who kidnapped them in the first place. Unfortunately, Kidnap is unable to live up to the action-thriller legacy of that earlier film.
The problem though is that the first 40 minutes of Kidnap is one of the worst stretches of any film I’ve seen so far this year. The editing and pacing is sloppy, and Halle Berry is forced to give one of the lamest monologues I think I’ve ever heard, in which she awkwardly and lengthily prays to God that she hasn’t lost sight of a car on the freeway, the same one in which her son has been kidnapped and forced into by two mysterious, deplorable human beings.
In order to pad out its run time, the film pulls some cheap, often exploitative tricks to try and wring even more horror out of an already horrifying situation, gimmicks that will make you simultaneously embarrassed by and angry at the film. It’s in that stretch that Kidnap is everything you might have worried it would be.But then something strange happens about halfway through, during a moment when Berry’s Karla first comes to blows with one of her son’s kidnappers. Here Kidnap shows hints of being a similarly cutthroat – albeit lighter – companion film to the first Taken. And as Karla comes up with more and more ingenious and often violent ways of pursuing/fighting her son’s captors, Kidnap finds the traction and grit that was sorely missing from everything that had preceded it. There’s even a moment, believe it or not, when Karla has to find a way to defeat her armed attacker that managed to elicit a scattered cheer from the critics in my packed press screening.
Kidnap is by no means a good film. But its final half does manage to deliver some legitimately entertaining and savage action sequences, with the film’s final confrontation making for a surprisingly tense and prolonged number of minutes. All these things help turn the film from being potentially one of the worst of 2017 to at the very least a much more fun experience than it has any right to be.
Most of that is in thanks to the performance of Berry, who brings about as much energy and passion to her performance as Karla as anyone could expect from her. Sometimes it may feel like she’s putting too much into her delivery – especially when she’s in the car talking to herself periodically throughout the first half – but when taking into account the material she’s been given, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job. Considering that director Luis Prieto does very little to bring any substantial style or visual flair to the film, it’s a testament to Berry’s performance that Kidnap’s more violent and tense moments hit as hard as they do.