"KIDNAP" — 2 stars — Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, Lew Temple, Jason George; R (violence and peril); in general release
"Kidnap" feels destined to become one of those strange but watchable movies you get wrapped up in while surfing cable channels late at night. It takes itself just a hair too seriously to be any real fun, but it would be dishonest to deny its mild B-movie appeal.
Director Luis Prieto's "Kidnap" tells the story of a single mother who chases down a pair of miscreants after they abduct her son. It's more or less a "Taken" clone, swapping Liam Neeson for Halle Berry in a minivan, and Europe for Bayou Country in Louisiana.
The plot doesn't waste time. We meet Karla Dyson (Berry) at her waitress job in a Louisiana diner, and spend just enough time with her to see her mouth off to a rude customer, which tells us she has spunk. Then she whisks her 6-year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa) off to a crowded public park, where he is promptly kidnapped and loaded into an old 1980s beater Mustang.
But rather than freeze in a daze at the park, "Kidnap's" mom-tagonist immediately sets off in pursuit of the kidnappers, first clinging to the side of their car, then somehow picking herself off the pavement and into her minivan in time to initiate a bizarre and chaotic car chase that is just campy and melodramatic enough to undermine its own tension.
Amazingly, this chase takes up the bulk of the movie, as Karla careens through traffic, causing numerous wrecks in her wake, never losing sight of her boy. Even when the kidnappers — a pair of cartoon rednecks (Chris McGinn and Lew Temple) apparently in the middle of a child trafficking ring — threaten Frankie's life, Karla still manages to stay on their trail.
There are a few pauses here or there — Karla stops at a police station just long enough to conclude that the long arm of law enforcement is inferior to her and her indestructible minivan — but for the most part, "Kidnap" is a point A to point B spectacle that manages to be bad and watchable at the same time, but never quite crazy enough to be real fun.
It will be hard for anyone who has seen "Taken" to watch "Kidnap" without drawing obvious and unfortunate comparisons. It is interesting to consider swapping the "special set of skills" that Neeson uses to wipe out the Albanian bad guys with Berry's pure maternal instincts. "Kidnap" almost feels like a 94-minute illustration of that legend about the mom who finds the strength to lift a Buick in order to save her trapped child. (It's really too bad someone didn't have enough of a sense of humor to release "Kidnap" on Mother's Day weekend.)
But sadly, "Kidnap's" clumsy clunkiness, exposition-heavy monologues and inferior story keep it in that late-night cable category that seems perfectly entertaining so long as you aren't paying for it. Even if "Kidnap" manages to keep your attention, you never really fear for Frankie's life, and that lack of emotional engagement prevents the film from truly connecting, no matter how cool it is to see a blood spattered Berry stalk out of her trashed ride brandishing a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun, then pat the hood affectionately before setting off for the film's final act.
"Kidnap" is rated R for violence and peril; running time: 94 minutes.