Few performers have had quite the harsh post-Oscar win drop-off that has become as synonymous with Halle Berry as any of her performances. Since taking home the gold, Berry hasn’t exactly taken on roles that showcase her talents. Unfortunately, her latest film, Kidnap, continues to race off in the wrong direction. It’s fascinating to see Halle Berry try her hand as an executive producer, but hopefully her next project won’t be the kind of movie where tires screech when they glide across a field of grass. The value-priced chase movie is aggravatingly harebrained as it combines a single-minded thriller with a Lifetime original movie, without ever having the courtesy to give the audience the self-aware camp promised by that pairing.
In the sticky heat of New Orleans (a setting that is less relevant to the plot that it is to the film’s budget), Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) struggles as a waitress in a diner while battling for custody over her son, Frankie (the endlessly adorable Sage Correa). On a trip to the park, Karla loses sight of her son, only to find out he’s been abducted by money-hungry hillbillies (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn). In order to save her child, she opts to take the law into her own hands and go after her son’s captors.
Kidnap came straddled with a troubled production, and it shows. Nearly every aspect of the movie falls short of even the lowest of expectations. If Halle Berry weren’t attached to this project (and for some reason it was still able to find a home) it would be buried at the bottom of a DVD bargain bin. The performances, both from the supporting cast and from the Academy Award winner herself, are so horrendous that you wonder whether or not the movie is an intentional parody. Not to mention that every frame is all but literally painful to look at. The quick, choppy editing is akin to what you would find on daytime television, with action sequences cut with split-second fades as if they are themselves a trailer for a movie that was never actually made.
It’s rare to find a movie – even one in a genre so laden with clichés – with such an affinity for the unoriginal. Kidnap seems to be enthusiastically gunning for low-hanging fruit, with a criminally thin plot that never even entertains the possibility of setting itself apart from the pack. Director Luis Prieto (Pusher, Bamboleho) and screenwriter Knate Lee (Cardboard Boxer) have repurposed exact plot beats from countless other schlocky, low-budget thrillers, and they didn’t even have enough sense to steal from the good ones. However, just in case a viewer can’t keep up with the tired storyline, Halle Berry is constantly coddling the audience by talking to herself in order to move the plot along. Spoiler alert: she isn’t telling you anything you couldn’t piece together for yourself.
As the movie drags on, Karla goes through a swift and severely undeserved Breaking Bad-esque character transformation, wherein she leaves behind her life as a meager, incompetent single parent in order to support her vengeful rampage. Several people meet an untimely end in the service of finding this one boy, taking the lengths a mother will go to protect her child to the absolute extreme. Still, it begs the question: was any of the destruction even worth it?
Kidnap is endlessly entertaining, but never in the way it aims to be. There’s no script to speak of, nor are there any alluring action set pieces. This is a garbage movie that might be offensive if it were any more memorable. If you were after a comeback, Ms. Berry, better luck next time.