Much in the abrupt manner of this flimsy excuse of a thriller, let’s cut right to the chase: Kidnap might be the worst nonanimated film of the summer (Yes, The Emoji Movie, you can breathe easy.). Rather than waste time and energy dissecting a script so thin and transparent it should have been scrawled on plastic wrap, let’s just enjoy some of its most outstanding idiocies, shall we? Spoilers abound, but is it possible to truly “spoil” something already so completely rotted out? Seems unlikely.
1. We meet Karla (Halle Berry, who is also given a producer credit, suggesting her agent isn’t really doing her any favors) as she finishes her shift as an L.A. waitress, taking her adorable 6-year-old son, Frankie (Sage Correa), out to an amusement park. While there,
Karla is momentarily distracted by a phone call from her attorney — turns out her ex is looking for primary custody (which likely wouldn’t happen unless maybe the judge got to see her in reckless action). While speaking with her lawyer, Karla inexplicably turns her back on Frankie, and in the 20 seconds or so she speaks before her phone dies, she is looking directly away from her son, even though she keeps interrupting the conversation to call out “Marco” to him, in order to hear his “Polo” response. Mightn’t it have just been easier to keep your attention on him in the first place?
2. In keeping with the shameless script, director Luis Prieto stages scenes in only the most obvious ways possible: The moment of panic in which Karla realizes her son is missing is represented by the camera swirling around her, exactly the way practically every other film in history has portrayed such confusion. Action scenes, such as they are, are so choppy and ill-edited it’s virtually impossible to tell what is actually happening.
3. Immediately after her son is snatched, Karla spots the kid’s abductor, a heavyset blond woman with stringy hair, stuffing the boy into a garish, green, ’80s-era Mustang GT, with rear-window louvers and black front-end cover. Fortunately for the shrewd kidnappers, they thought to remove the license plate rather than be, um, easily identified. Good thinking!
4. The car speeds off down a freeway with Karla in hot pursuit in her red minivan, putting everyone around her at risk, but she doesn’t stop for half a second, even after causing a massive crash that forces an SUV behind her to spin out of control and roll over several times. Throughout the film, Karla shows a shocking lack of concern for any of the collateral damage she causes en route to saving Frankie: A motorcycle cop gets smushed between her minivan and the Mustang; numerous other cars are slammed into; a pedestrian crossing the road gets hit by the perps; a good Samaritan in a commercial truck gets rammed off the road. For each of these horrific crashes, Karla peers into her rear-view mirror a second, hunches her shoulders down, grimaces, and speeds on without another thought.
5. Stopping by a local police precinct to report the abduction, Karla notes a bunch of Missing Children posters tacked to the wall and mutters to herself that all these parents did the exact same thing she’s doing and got nowhere. She decides the better course of action is to go full vigilante and find Frankie by herself. Naturally, her instincts prove 100 percent correct.
6. As a means of conveying information, Knate Lee’s “script” calls for Karla to talk incessantly to herself in the car, narrating her dilemma (“So now what’s the plan?” she asks herself at one point, quickly concluding that she hasn’t got one) pretty much so former Oscar-winner Berry has something to do other than grit her teeth and bleed out the nose. She also has a penchant for broad exclamatory statements (“Wherever you go, I’ll be right behind you, no matter what!” and so forth). The effect is like overhearing a young boy playing with his GI Joes.
7. To quickly recap the kidnappers’ scheme: They go to a busy park to snatch a kid in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses. They then plan to take this child — in their ridiculous getaway car — many miles away to their country home, where they stash their stolen children in a garage attic to sell to a “middleman” for a huge amount of money. Based on their modest surroundings and the lack of quality dental care of the pair, it’s safe to say the whole kid-abduction bit hasn’t treated them terribly well so far, but a person can still dream.
8. Doubling down, after stopping the car, evil Margo (Chris McGinn) — clad in a “Love Taker” T-shirt, who maybe didn’t realize how on the nose her fashion choice might have been that morning — climbs into the backseat of Karla’s minivan in order to direct her to a bank where she can acquire $10,000 to pay them for her son’s return. That does, in fact, sound like a ludicrous plan, but even that is brilliant compared to Margo’s next move, which is to wait until Karla is driving through a tunnel and then attempt to strangle her while she is driving the car. This doesn’t turn out well for her.
9. Upon dispatching the hapless male kidnapper, Terry (Lew Temple), also via her now-utterly destroyed minivan, Karla uses the car’s still-functioning GPS to tell her exactly where to go to find Terry and Margo’s secret hideout. Somehow, she finds the place very easily, even while wandering aimlessly in the woods to find it.
10. Upon arrival, skulking around the house, Karla thinks to call 911. The dispatcher almost immediately triangulates her position and promises many squad cars full of angry cops in a few short minutes. Rather than hide and wait, Kara takes it on herself to roam around in search of her son, whom she finds, along with a pair of other snatched kids.
11. In the only time where things don’t seem to happen immediately, the cops delay their arrival until after Karla has done final battle with Margo, whose guard dog doesn’t think to make so much as a yip until Karla opens the door to its room. After tearing after her and Frankie, with Margo in hot pursuit, the dog seems to vanish into the ether. Maybe it was never really there.
12. After the cops finally get to the house in time to wrap Karla and the kids in survival blankets, we hear the local news broadcast describing her heroic actions, and the police praising her “unprecedented civilian pursuit,” as opposed to arresting her for killing a score of innocent bystanders. The end credits come up so fast, it’s as if the Kidnap filmmakers were embarrassed for us that we had stuck around that long.
Karla (Halle Berry) chases after the bad people who stole her son in Kidnap, the Luis Prieto movie that’s been sitting on the shelf for three years.
When her son, Frankie (Sage Correa), is kidnapped, Karla (Halle Berry) takes the law into her own hands in the chase thriller Kidnap.