Halle Berry lets nothing stop her in “Pusher” director Luis Prieto’s “Kidnap” (*** OUT OF ****) when two predatory rednecks target her six-year old son for abduction in contemporary Louisiana. This white-knuckled, adrenaline-laced, highway thriller about a mad mom in hot pursuit who refuses to quit is reminiscent of an earlier Halle Berry movie “The Call” (2013) where she portrayed a veteran 911 operator troubled about the welfare of an abducted teenage girl. “The Call” heroine ultimately teamed up with the victim to wreak vengeance on the murderous dastard who had abducted her. Similarly, Berry is just as driven to catch up with her son’s kidnappers, no matter what the police advise her. At one point, a policewoman urges her to wait for the authorities to intervene. Our protagonist relents momentarily until she notices the glut of child abduction posters on a nearby bulletin board and the years that those children have been missing. Mind you, “Kidnap” is one of those contrived, but entertaining Hollywood thrillers where the police are either off elsewhere when needed or useless when involved. Ultimately, they show up, but they are too late to make a difference. Nevertheless, in dramatic terms, their last-minute arrival puts the burden on the waitress mom, facing her own child custody battle with her ex-husband and his girlfriend. When we see Berry for the first time, she is calm and collected. Before “Kidnap” concludes, she is both disheveled and desperate in her efforts to rescue her son.
In a shrewd but calculated effort to endear Karla Dyson’s son Frankie (newcomer Sage Correa) to audiences, director Luis Prieto has appropriated real-life video of the adorable toddler from Correa’s parents. The prologue in “Kidnap” shows Frankie as a lovable little fellow. When the story unfolds, he is six-years old, but still lovable. Frankie is coloring pictures in the restaurant where Karla (Halle Berry of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) works as a waitress, serving up dishes to diners who aren’t happy. Sadly, Karla isn’t happy either because she was supposed to have gotten off her shift so she could take Frankie to the city park. No sooner does she have Frankie at the park than her attorney phones her about her ex-husband’s plans to take her son away from her. All the racket going on around Karla at the park interferes with her concentration. She steps away briefly from Frankie to tell her attorney that nobody is going to take her son away from her. During these short-lived moments, she loses sight of Frankie, and then spots an obese, white woman, Margo (newcomer Chris McGinn), dragging him into her late 1980s’ Green Ford Mustang with a bra over the grille. Karla scrambles after them, seizes the luggage rack bars atop the car-roof, and is dragged along until the accelerating vehicle jars her hands loose. Charging off to her red minivan, she drops her cell phone in the street and careens out of the park on the bumper of the Mustang. As she closes on after them, these fiends hurl everything in the trunk of the Mustang at her. Happily, Karla swerves out of the path of the debris, but some motorists aren’t so fortunate. One vehicle tumbles sideways after a spare tire slams into it. Eventually, the kidnappers hang Frankie’s head out of the passenger’s side door and hold a knife to this throat. Reluctantly, Karla backs off, but she doesn’t give up her pursuit as easily as the abductors reckoned.
Things complicate quickly when Karla attracts the attention of a motorcycle police officer. Initially, the cop orders Karla to pull over, but Karla keeps pointing at the Mustang. Eventually, the cop gets the message, but he finds himself crushed between the recklessly driven Mustang and Karla’s red minivan. The two cars plow off the highway and onto a grass median where the injured cop crashes his bike. Karla comes face to face with the kidnappers and tries to bargain with them. She tosses them her wallet with her credit cards and gives them her pin number in exchange for her son’s life. The tall, lanky, male redneck driver, Terry (Lew Temple of “Lawless”), takes her wallet. Moments later Karla freaks out when Terry’s mother emerges from the Mustang with the wallet and suggests that Karla take her to the bank to withdraw $10-grand for Frankie. Naturally, you would never let such a repugnant woman share the same car with you. Margo slides into the back seat so she can control Karla. While cruising through an underground, one-lane tunnel, Karla realizes her mistake, and the two women tangle like tigers. Twisting Karla’s side belt around her neck, Margo strangles her. Karla ditches Margo, but this isn’t the last that she’ll see of this despicable dame.
Basically, “Kidnap” puts us in the passenger’s seat with Karla as she chases the villains. Initially, she has little luck catching up with them. The filmmakers refrain from showing us what little Frankie is enduring until the end when the tension really comes to a boil. Director Luis Prieto doesn’t pull too many punches because you know our heroine is going to rescue her son. Nevertheless, our heroine must deal with one infuriating setback after another. Chiefly, the villains are hopelessly unsavory and have no qualms about endangering innocent bystanders. Indeed, one pedestrian gets in Terry’s way, and he smashes into her, somersaulting her off the windshield of his stolen car. Not even the sight of a woman crumpled up on the asphalt in dire need of medical help distracts our brave heroine from letting her adversary escape from her! Prieto keeps his camera focused tightly on Karla so she is up in our face for the duration of the harrowing chase. You’ll be pulling your hair out by the roots at the unbearably suspenseful grand finale of “Kidnap” when our heroine finally tracks down Frankie! Clocking in at 95-minutes, “Kidnap” will keep you poised on the edge of your seat.