Halle Berry demonstrates time and again how magnetic her presence is on the silver screen. She made her feature film debut in Tony Scott’s The Last Boy Scout in 1991. She has won an Academy Award for her lead performance in Monster’s Ball and has been a Bond Girl, the epitome of actresses the world over.
It is safe to say that she is an established actress and entitled to make her own passion projects.
Unfortunately, the ‘passion’ and ‘project’ did not congeal in her latest film, Kidnap.
As the film opens, we meet waitress Karla Dyson who is as witty as she is stressed. She is hurried, with a sense of purpose while her son Frankie sits patiently at the counter, waiting for his mom to be relieved so that they can spend the day at the park.
Knate Lee’s script starts out quite strong as we get glimpses into Karla and Frankie’s lives. Karla is painted as a tough-as-nails mom while Frankie is bubbly and outgoing. They are struggling through a bitter custody battle following Karla’s divorce from Frankie’s father. Karla has a rather frank conversation with Frankie about making friends with his dad’s girlfriend. Lee uses this point to paint stability in the fractured family while Prieto’s use of home videos over the opening credits goes to reinforce how far Karla will go to protect Frankie.
Once they get to the park, Karla becomes extremely distracted leading to the crux of the film’s story. The interesting thing about the actual kidnapping is that Lee and Prieto intentionally force us to watch it along with Karla. Circumstances force Karla to chase after the abductors. As solid as the chase is, it is fraught with unnecessary camera angles. Within these camera angles, Berry projects her way through the chase, demonstrating her determination, but it falls short. It is important to note that Berry’s performance is as strong as it has ever been and her determination shined through. In addition to her performance, her hair stylist deserves kudos too.
Lee introduces so many characters and story threads that come figuratively out of the swamp that they either get jumbled up or get lost amongst the never-ceasing chase.
Speaking of the never-ending chase, director Luis Prieto manages to put the tension into overdrive fueled by a red Chrysler Town and Country ripping through the Louisiana Bayou. Someone at Chrysler is probably figuring out just how to market the Town and Country’s brains over the brawn of a third generation Ford Mustang. Or else they’re trying to reassure worried moms that their products really can’t maneuver as quickly as depicted in the film.
Prieto and cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano find ways to distort the image with odd camera angles making it appear as if they were trying to extend Karla’s perseverance, but instead became distracting. Labiano did manage to capture a number of gorgeous overhead and aerial shots really enhancing the Louisiana Bayou that is very rarely seen.
The stunts really shine here and Andy Dylan’s stunt team does deserve recognition. It’s very rare for a film to contain so many driving stunts, even with the budget this film had. The non-driving stunts also had a physicality about them that rivals a number of action movies.
Kidnap is a valiant effort to tell a modern take on the state of families and society in general. While it is very clearly a B-level movie, Berry’s convincing performance carries the film so far before it completely deteriorates, overwhelmed by a projected chase and a number of missed opportunities.