In this week’s instalment of cliché-explorers, we delve down deep into the question: How fierce is a mother’s love?
In Kidnap, it’s so ferociously bad-ass that Mama Bear follows her cute cub’s abductors along the expressway, out of New Orleans, through a tunnel (wherein a backseat-driver fight ensues), into the backwater-and-bayou boonies, to the ends of her moral restraint.
Why we should follow her is more difficult to answer, as the action keeps tire-squealing into silliness—so screeching that it’s almost funny. The movie wears even a viewer’s rubbery patience thin.
Kidnap itself suffered a drawn-out captivity—its release, delayed because its backers were trying to stave off financial ruin, only came almost three years after filming, when another distributor bought its rights.
What’s come off the assembly line is padded in places: an intro with home-video clips of Karla’s son growing up that’s so long it feels like we’ve raised the kid, too; an overlong diner scene to show how harried a waitress Karla is; etc.
It’s leadenly overstated in others: mom and son, playing “Marco Polo” in a midway, offer foreshadowing so doom-laden (“Oh, no—have I lost my little Frankie forever? Where could he be?”) that it should come in a Vincent Price voice; super-dramatic slo-mos, pans, and zoom-ins.
Just in case we’re not sure that Karla (Halle Berry, left to wild-eye the gamut between adrenalized desperation and fear-stricken panic), pedal-to-the-metal pursuing the perpetrators in her minivan (it’s Duel meets The Missing), is super-mom extraordinaire, we’re told.
“As long as my son is in that car, I will not stop … I will be right behind you, no matter what.”
Berry was in a better movie in the same vein a few years back (The Call). If this schlock were a 50-minute TV pilot for Carpool Karaoke meets The Twilight Zone, then it might be endurable or you could, at least, change the channel. But Kidnap, seemingly a mega-commercial for the crash-and-smash durability of American minivans, is really just a ramshackle stranger-danger vehicle, backfiring with the sounds of a mother’s conniptions before spinning into one long, stupid action-chase skid out.