While the writer of Kidnap probably could have come up with a more imaginative title (perhaps the good ones were already Taken?) the film does just what it says on the box. After Karla Dyson (Berry) loses her kid Frankie (Correa) at a carnival, she embarks on a one-woman manhunt to catch his kidnappers (McGinn and Temple) with a tenacity that puts Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills to shame.
The first 10 minutes of the film are spent revealing a mother-son relationship – all smiles and cutesy nicknames – which comes across as chirpy and unrealistic. (Nowhere on Berry’s face resides the look of a financially disadvantaged single mother in the throes of a custody battle.) The bulk of the action takes the form of an intense car chase, with pulsating shots of passing road markings and helicopter views for added anxiety, that leads to massive destruction – yet authorities are simply nowhere to be found. There’s a hollow sense of isolation as the camera opens up to follow chaser and chasee as they traverse highways and bridges with water on both sides. It gave me the feeling of being truly alone in this world. This is compounded by the fact that during this rampage, Karla’s harrowing experience seems to befuddle onlookers and passersby. She’s constantly separated from them by either a physical barrier (like a closed window) or their moronic passivity. Don’t get too close to the crazy lady. I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have played out if it was Karla’s ex-husband who had lost the kid instead.
The plot of Kidnap is bizarre and frustrating (the kidnappers’ car has no license plate, police are totally useless, there’s no phone reception, etc.) but it’s fun to cheer Karla on every time she’s told to wait or calm down, and she’s like, “Nah, screw that,” and soldiers on. The crowd seemed to alternate between cheers and groans depending on the developments, which made for a fun viewing experience. And Lew Temple (Lawless, The Devil’s Rejects) really slumps into his role as a gritty dirtbag with nothing to lose. The cast is sparse, and so believability is essential. At just 81 minutes, it’s a short shot of adrenaline, exhilarating yet predictable.
Copyright © 2023 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.