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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Kidnap

I imagine one day Kidnap will inspire a drinking game.  Said game will consist of the player having to take a shot every time Halle Berry says either "Frankie" or "Oh my God" during the course of the film.  However, since these are the two most repeated lines of dialogue in the movie, and they are used with such frequency, I can picture many who play it will be passed out or dead from alcohol poisoning before the movie hits the half hour mark.  Maybe I should hope that this game never comes to pass.

The plot of the movie is certainly simple enough.  Karla (Berry) is a single mother working at a diner as she tries to support her six-year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa).  After work, she takes her son to a local park.  While watching a music concert together, Karla takes her eyes off her boy for a few seconds in order to answer a phone call from her lawyer. (Her much more financially stable ex-husband and his new wife want full custody of Frankie.) When she turns her attention back to him, the kid is gone.  She searches the park in a panic, and eventually happens to see Frankie being forced into a car by a mysterious man and woman.  She gets into her own car to give chase (unknowingly dropping her cell phone to the ground in her panic to catch up with the kidnappers), and her attempt to follow the couple who have her kid makes up a majority of the film.

Kidnap wants to be a white-knuckle thriller built around a high-speed chase, but the move never generates the excitement it wants to, or that we expect it to.  The way the chase is filmed and staged by director Luis Prieto is simply not thrilling.  A majority of the chase is made up of close ups of Berry's face, who spends a lot of the film talking to herself as she tails the runaway car.  We also occasionally get a shot of her speedometer, or a fuel gauge once in a while.  There are a couple of narrow escape moments where Karla accidentally causes some damage to some innocent drivers on the road, but even these are not that exciting.  That's because a majority of these action shots have been filmed with such rapid fire editing, it can sometimes be hard to see what we're supposed to be looking at.  Some long and steady shots would have gone a long way in creating some tension.

Since the car chase makes up a good 85% of the film or so, you would think the filmmakers would go out of their way to make it memorable, but there's not a single thing that stands out about it.  Even when Karla happens to find herself facing down one of the kidnappers in her own car, the ensuing struggle is filmed in a dark tunnel, so we can barely see what is supposed to be happening.  There's not a single moment that manages to raise the excitement in the audience, not even when the movie resorts to some sudden brutal violence. (A scene involving an unfortunate motorcycle cop just kind of happens, and then is immediately forgotten about.) You would think that a high speed chase that lasts the good part of a day would get the attention of other motorists or perhaps the police, but since we never really leave Karla's car, we never get a good sense of what's going on outside.

Perhaps the reason why Kidnap comes across as being so inconsequential is because it's obviously been heavily edited during its long trip to theaters.  The movie was supposed to come out two years ago, but its original distributor went bankrupt, and it sat on the shelf as it got shuffled around a variety of release dates.  During that time, the movie obviously was cut quite a bit.  How can I tell?  The film's official listing states that it's around 95 minutes long.  However, my screening (complete with commercials and trailers) got out in only 85 minutes.  It's not that I wanted the film to be longer, mind you.  It's just that when I pay full price for a ticket, I expect something that runs a little bit longer than just over an hour.

I have no doubt in my mind that a suspenseful movie could come from this idea, but the execution here is clumsy and limp.  When all is said, Kidnap should have been a fun little B-thriller, but it largely comes across as a wasted opportunity. 

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