(Luis Prieto, USA, 2017)


Kidnap is undoubtedly one of the oddest mainstream action movies I have ever seen.


Made in 2014 but not released (due to various industrial complications) until 2017, it is sort-of a distant cousin to Speed (1994) – in that almost the entire thing is one, long, car chase sequence. There’s also an evident relation to Spielberg’s Duel (1971), in that the darkly menacing vehicle is (for some long time) swathed in mystery and anonymity. In Halle Berry’s career, it rings back to Brad Anderson’s The Call (2013), a much better film, where she played a 911 operator on the line to a teenage kidnap victim.


This time, Berry as feisty single mother Karla chases the kidnappers of her little son, Frankie (Sage Correa). The action proceeds on the highway and off the highway: Karla gets smashed up; she smashes the bad people up; and on it goes. Relentlessness is the keynote: there’s hardly any stopping of the motion-action.


The net result: there must be 30 full minutes of the star’s reaction shots as Karla talks aloud to herself at the wheel – duly intercut with the cars careening everywhere. Karla screams, cries, rages, breaks down, gives up, starts over again …


But, even with this minimalist action premise, the film still seems unduly stretched, with a couple of almost Jeanne Dielman-like expository sequences (Karla at work as a diner waitress ...) that go on forever – not to mention an infinite final-credit roll (with a bunch of crazy happy-mother/son stills), presumably to arrive at an 85 minute running time.


I warn you: it's all weirdly hypnotic ...


Note – Luis Prieto (a CalArts graduate, he made the English-language Pusher remake in 2012, now mainly doing TV action series, with a new feature Shattered starring John Malkovich on the way): subject for further research.

© Adrian Martin 20 May 2017 / 15 May 2020

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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