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Kidnap (2017)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/31/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/26/2017

Do you give much thought to movie titles? Do the people who make movies? This may be difficult to believe, but there are those who judge a movie based on the title. (And there are those who arrive at the theater with no true agenda and pick a movie because of the name.) Should a title have to convey the film's premise? Does it have to be clever? Let's look at the movie Kidnap. What an odd title. Why not "Kidnapped" or "A Kidnapping"? Perhaps that short, concise title was mean to reflect the short concise nature of the movie.

Karla (Halle Berry) is having a rough go of it. She's in the middle of a divorce and she has a thankless job as a waitress. The one bright spot in her life is her young son, Frankie (Sage Correa). Karla tries to spend as much quality time with Frankie as she can, so one day, she takes him to the park, where a community event is taking place. They enjoy the sights and see a show, but when Karla turns away from the music so that she can take a call from her attorney, Frankie disappears. She frantically searches for him throughout the park and reaches the parking lot just in time to see the boy being dragged into a car, which speeds away. Karla jumps into him mini-van and gives chase. What began as simple day of fun will become an endurance test for Karla as she pursues the kidnappers car, hoping to save Frankie and learn what is going on.

Despite how brain-dead most movies may seem, the bulk of them are overwritten, having too many characters and subplots and unnecessary distractions. But, every once in a while, a movie comes along, typically a thriller, which is lean and mean -- short and simple and to the point. A good example would be 2005's Red Eye, and maybe to a lesser extent, 1994's Speed (once they got on the bus). These movies don't fool around in introducing their plot, keep things moving at a nice clip, and then wrap things up in a timely manner.

Kidnap certainly falls into this category. After the briefest of setups to introduce Karla and Frankie, he's been snatched and the movie turns into a very long chase scene. Once Karla is in her mini-van, the pace rarely lets up, as we watch her weave through traffic, try to keep the kidnapper's car in sight, and then try to cope with their mind games. The movie is decidedly low on plot. There is certainly a story here, but there are few superfluous additions to the story. It's "Kidnapping + chase = most of the movie". Trust me, about half-way through Kidnap, you're going to become convinced that the entire movie takes place in cars. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't -- things do get shaken up a bit in the third act. If Writer Knate Lee's, who has done a lot of work in reality TV, goal was to strip a contemporary thriller of everything but the barest essentials, then he has succeeded.

While Kidnap certainly presents what should be a pulse-pounding good time, there is something missing. Despite her best efforts, I simply didn't buy Berry as the frantic mom. She drives her van and screams "Oh God!" a lot while looking at the photo of Frankie stuck to her visor, but I never felt her anxiety. I did, however, find her much more convincing when her panic gave way to anger as the movie progressed. However, my lack of connection to her kept the film at a distance when it should have been pulling me in. There are also some issues with the script which were a distraction. Lee finds a way to deal with the modern issue of cell phones early on, but I found it awfully convenient that Karla appeared to have a full tank of gas as the chase began. (If someone took one of my kids, they'd be screwed, as I never have over half-a-tank.) Also, it's convenient that Karla's pursuit creates a great deal of carnage on the interstate, but the cops don't show up for a long time.

Having said that, Kidnap is still a fairly decent thriller. As noted, the fact that it does its business and moves along is refreshing, as I've grown very weary of movies which feel that they have to be two-hours-plus. Director Louis Prieto does a fine job of stating the action and keeping things moving, but he does give us too many shots of the speedometer (which often shows a decidedly low speed). Most of all, I liked the tone change in the third act. If you were wondering why the movie is rated R, the answer comes in the last 20 minutes. I also liked the simplicity of the explanation. Kidnap is certainly worth a rental and should serve as a lesson to other filmmakers that longer is not always better.

Kidnap convinced me to go to the gas station on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The bulk of the film takes place during the day and Prieto has shot the film in a very natural way, so we are treated to a very crisp and realistic image. The colors look very good, most notably reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as the image never goes soft and the depth works well. The Disc caries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very engaging track, as we are treated to the many sounds which occur during the chase. From the whoosh of the passing cars, to the roar of the engines, the stereo and surround channels are filled with detailed sounds. Crashes and collisions bring the subwoofer in on the fun.

The lone extra on the Kidnap Blu-ray Disc is "A Look Inside Kidnap" (3 minutes), which is simply a brief EPK. Actually, it's more like a trailer which just happens to have comments from Berry, Director Luis Prieto, and Stunt Coordinator Steven Ritzi, who discuss the story and action.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long