The new Halle Berry vehicle “Kidnap” is trashy exploitation, an overcooked potboiler with many logical problems. I hereby confess I kind of enjoyed it.
Berry plays an extremely resourceful single mom named Karla, a waitress tending her 6-year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa). On an average afternoon in Louisiana, Karla returns from a quick phone call to discover that the child is missing.
Here’s where Knate Lee’s screenplay does something different. Karla actually sees Frankie get bundled into a getaway car by the kidnappers. She loses her phone (she has to, because cellphones ruin many movie plots), and jumps in her car and gives chase.
The chase goes on until the end of the movie. Karla trails the kidnappers, a creepy backwoods married couple (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn), through urban freeways and country roads.
The pursuit is pulse-boosting because there are no complicating factors: We’re locked into Karla’s company, without knowing what’s going in the kidnappers’ car. The first two-thirds of the film is a little like Steven Spielberg’s classic TV-movie “Duel,” which was nothing but a lone driver against a malevolent truck.
But this is dumber. “Kidnap” isn’t practicing rocket science here, and some of its decisions (like having Halle Berry speak her interior monologue out loud, in case the audience couldn’t infer how upset she might be about all this) are worthy of major eye-rolling.
Still, I like the fact that “Kidnap” puts the action in the hands of the anxious mother. In most kidnapping movies, Karla would be sidelined in an office while the FBI takes over.
I don’t know where Halle Berry has been lately — apparently in a place where people don’t age — but she remains a plucky, relatable audience avatar. Part of the appeal here is that Karla is not a Charlize-style superhero but a mom in sneakers.
It’s all go-go-go until it runs out of gas. Literally: At a certain point Karla needs to settle this without her sensible minivan. When the car finally gives out, she pauses to pat it on the hood, like a cowboy saying farewell to a faithful horse.
Director Luis Prieto (“Pusher”) does the only thing you can do with this kind of thing, which is to keep it in drive and bring it in under 90 minutes. He misses few tricks in exploiting the material, which in this case is a compliment.
“Kidnap” (2 1/2 stars)
Halle Berry is a single mom who witnesses her child being hustled into a car. She gives chase for the entire remainder of the film, a spectacle that is trashy and exploitative but frankly pretty pulse-boosting. It’s a dumb movie but effective on its own terms.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall