Although she has appeared in more than 50 movies and TV shows over the past 28 years, and is still, sadly, the only African American woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress – for her searing performance in 2001’s Monster’s Ball – Hollywood has never really known what to do with Halle Berry.
Sure, she’s had some meaty roles in films like Bulworth, Cloud Atlas, and the X-Men and Kingsman franchises, but Berry’s talents – like those of her powerhouse contemporary, Angela Bassett – are, more often than not, squandered in a town where compelling roles for women over forty are rare and parts for hard-charging African American women over forty are practically nonexistent.
Deciding to source and develop her own material instead, Berry has branched into producing in the past decade with mixed results. But her latest effort, the gritty and decidedly low-rent action-thriller Kidnap, is so awesomely bad-good that I think Berry might have finally found her niche in this one as an avenging single mother in a minivan.
A strangely compelling mash-up of classic revenge thrillers like Taken and Kill Bill, and trashy, Lifetime TV movies like A Mother Betrayed, Kidnap also owes a huge debt of gratitude to pulpy, Blaxploitation revenge thrillers like Foxy Brown and Coffy. And if you don’t think Berry can exact just as much vengeance from behind the wheel of her minivan as Pam Grier did with a gun, think again. I don’t want to give away too much but there is a death-by-minivan-door sequence in Kidnap that will have you both wincing in pain and rolling on the floor laughing at the same time. It’s amazing!
Set during one very long day in the life of a recently divorced waitress (believe it or not, Berry can still pull off playing a harried waitress like nobody’s business) named Karla, Kidnap is really little more than one epic, feature-length car chase. Streaking after them when a pair of baddies abduct her six-year-old son, Frankie (a pitch-perfect Sage Correa), from the park, Karla spends most of the movie emoting behind the steering wheel of her “mom machine” on the highway. And though that sounds like it could get a little boring after a while, trust me, boring is the last word I would use to describe this cheap, fast, and totally out of control thrill ride. And while she’s no Baby Driver, Karla more than holds her own in the film’s surprisingly inventive action sequences, most of which revolve around, you guessed it, Karla’s teflon minivan.
Directed by Spanish helmer Luis Prieto (Pusher) from a script by writer-producer Knate Lee (Jackass 3D, Bad Grandpa) Kidnap is the second cheesy-fun abduction thriller Berry has starred in in the past four years (after 2013’s The Call) and if you ask me, this is the kind of stuff she should be doing more of. Seriously. It takes a really great actress to make material this cheap and sleazy so much fun and nobody kicks bad guy ass better than Berry when she’s angry. So, bring on the next one, baby!
Now playing on select Emirates and Delta flights worldwide, Kidnap is also available via streaming at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video.