by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 4, 2017

Halle Berry stars in 'Kidnap'
Halle Berry stars in 'Kidnap'  

Halle Berry plays the movie version of Everymom: She wears stylish clothes, drives a top of the line minivan, and dotes on her son, an adorable six-year-old named Frankie (Sage Correa), all while working a minus wage job at a diner and going through a messy divorce. (Her husband, it turns out, has dumped her for a woman with a higher-paying gig; she's a pediatrician.)

Berry's character is named Karla, and though she is infinitely patient with Frankie, as with the often infantile and rude customers at the diner, she's also formidable once riled. We get a glimpse of this early on when an entitled young woman gets in her face over the fact that the diner only serves whole milk. We see it again when a pair of heavily stereotypical white trash kidnappers make off with Frankie, snatching him from a park bench while Karla is on the phone with her lawyer.

Spotting the kidnappers stuffing her child into an '80s car -- a model so distinctive and so sinister you wonder later on why the cops are mistakenly looking for Karla's minivan as the vehicle responsible for highway carnage -- Berry's character transforms into a mother on a mission. Like a NASCAR driver on too much Red Bull, she weaves in and out of traffic, braves hailstorms of debris hurled at her by the speeding criminals, and keeps up a running monologue in which she verbally tracks clues and maneuvers. The only thing the kidnappers can do to dissuade her pursuit is to hold a knife to the kid's throat or dangle him out an open door as they careen along with highway -- but even then Karla's retreats are strategic and only temporary. Soon she's charging right back up the road at the fleeing vehicle.

Somewhere along the way, the film takes a swift left turn away from reality. There's a dearth of cops on hand to patrol the roads; the one motorcycle policeman Karla spots, and then deliberately provokes into chasing her, is so thick that he fails to grasp what she's trying to convey. Later on, at a sheriff's office, she's asked to sit and wait quietly while an Amber alert is put into motion. Spotting a bulletin board crowded with notices of missing kids, she freaks out: "What's what they did," she says of the parents of those missing tykes. "They waited!"

And so it's back on the road Karla goes, and while there are enough hairpin turns and speed-driven stunts to give viewers the occasional shot of adrenaline, the movie never manages to feel anything but safe. Shotguns? Vicious dogs? A villain's redoubt deep in Louisiana's backwoods? Bring 'em on! We need really buy for a moment that Karla is in any true danger, and the movie helpfully aids us in this sense of security by giving us jumbled editing and murky details when anything resembling an actual threat arises. Miraculously, Karla pulls through every time, because it's just that kind of script -- and we know it from the very first.

This film travels a long road to its obvious (and overstated) destination. It tells you something when a film that clocks in at around 80 minutes ends up feeling like a three-hour tour through genre cliches.


Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.