Review

Halle Berry is one bad mother in the inept chase thriller 'Kidnap'

Halle Berry stars as a woman who pushes her minivan, and her psyche, to the limit while retrieving her young son from abductors in the scanty thriller “Kidnap,” directed by Luis Prieto, written by Knate Lee. There’s not much more to it than that — this mom is fast, and is she ever furious.

This road-bound thriller takes place on the highways and byways of Louisiana, as Karla (Berry) goes in hot pursuit of a pair kidnappers straight out of a John Waters movie. They’ve snatched her son out from under her nose at the local fair, but as she declares, “You picked the wrong kid,” and boy, did they ever. They never knew they’d have to tangle with a fierce waitress/single mom who’s got wheels and knows how to use them.

Co-produced by Berry, the vehicle offers the star a chance to prove her physical might in a low-budget genre piece. But there had to have been better screenplays out there than this. Lee’s shallow, extremely dumb script should have been thrown directly into the trash, not brought to the big screen. Since Berry is most often behind the wheel of her red minivan (she pushes it all the way to 60 mph!) she ends up talking to, shouting at and pleading with things that can’t talk back — other cars, the radio, a photo, billboards, a garbage can.

Not only is the dialogue horrendous, but so many opportunities for interesting twists and turns are squandered along the way. Things that are teased early on, like a brewing custody battle, never pay off, the conversation just illustrating that Karla will do anything to keep her son. No, there are no interesting reveals or surprises — this is as straightforward a story as it gets, and it is tissue-paper thin.

Berry’s performance is not necessarily “good,” but it is effortful. She is at full throttle for almost all of the running time, wild-eyed, teeth bared in a Halloween-mask grimace. It is “Hysteria: The Movie,” as she moans and wails to herself in the car, repeatedly shouts at random passersby to “call 911!” while careening past them on the road, leaving a trail of bodies (including a cop) in her wake. It’s a true wonder that no one ever accuses her of being crazy or out of her mind, which would have added some dynamism to the tale.

But for all of Berry’s breathless, screechy effort, “Kidnap” doesn’t contain any suspense or tension. Perhaps it’s the script, or director Prieto’s tendency to shoot action scenes with quickly edited close-ups, flashes of images whizzing by like a strobe light. But there’s simply no heart-stopping action — it’s all just a yawn-inducing snoozefest that plods along even more predictably than you could have imagined.

Berry does get a few awesome moments, which inspired cheers and applause from the audience, mostly when she dispatches her enemies using the unique features of her trusty minivan. If one thing’s for certain, you’ll never look at the much-maligned family vehicle the same way ever again.


“Kidnap”

Rating: R, for violence and peril

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Playing: In general release

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