“Kidnap”: a rather silly thriller invoking female vigilantism about a dangerous topic

Kidnap”, by Luis Prieto (written by Knate Lee), by its title suggests a very grave topic of something that can be a personal crisis.  If you get kidnapped, others may have to bargain for your life (or for a family member’s or a child).  Ron Howard’s 1996 film “Ransom” with Mel Gibson(Touchstone) is memorable for this. So is the 2009 French film “Rapt” (or “Abduction”) by Lucas Belvaux) dealing with this issue for a business executive.  With family members of intelligence agents, consider Pierre Morel’s “Taken” (2008)

But this new film plays like a combo of near gothic horror and typical crowd-pleasing chase female vigilante movie for the summer.

Halle Berry plays Karla Dawson, a divorced mom in a custody battle, who has a real job as a waitress in New Orleans, and who has little economic leverage to keep the kid. She’s takes her little boy Frankie (Sage Correa) to an amusement park, showing a Fire Ball like the one that broke in Ohio recently. When she gets a cell phone call about custody, she momentarily loses track of her little boy (despite calling him), and the boy is taken.

What follows is rather silly escapism. She loses her phone, and chases after the kidnappers who are in a no-license sedan around the Louisiana I-10 freeway interchanges, which I last visited in 2006.  The police are incompetent, and eventually the film leads us to a climax at the kidnappers’ safe house in the bayou.  The villains are a white couple, (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn) with the woman Margo particularly chilling as a monster.  The race roles are reversed here: the white people are the bad guys.   The scheme first starts out as a way to extort $10000 from a waitress who doesn’t have it (so that makes little sense), unless she could get it from the ex-husband (which means she loses custody and probably visitation).  But at the end we learn there is a sex trafficking ring of young boys deep in the woods.  The film was released (probably coincidentally) the same week that the Senate introduced the SESTA anit-trafficking bill, weakening Section 230 downstream liability protections for Internet providers, so this could have an indirect effect on future “free speech”.

As overwrought as the car chases and other conflict scenes are, they seem to conform to a certain idea in screenwriting aimed at selling movie tickets and achieving popularity:  make the circumstances of the heroine as dire as possible, even with a twist at the very end.  And maintain political correctness at all times, please.

Name:  “Kidnap
Director, writer:  Luis Prieto, Knate Lee
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed: Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/8/4, afternoon, small audience
Length:  94
Rating:  R
Companies:  Aviron, Relativity Media, Rogue, Di Bonaventura
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 11:30 AM EDT)