The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Apologies in advance, but this review will contain some minor spoilers. There's simply no way to accurately discuss Kidnap without giving examples of what's wrong with it. This is a movie of astonishing awfulness, so ineptly made that its wide release into cinemas is unfathomable. There is no level on which it works, except perhaps as a film school case study of how not to make a thriller.

Halle Berry plays Karla Dyson, a divorced waitress and the mother of a little boy named Frankie (Sage Correa). They're watching a musical performance at the park one afternoon when she takes a few steps away to answer a phone call. When she returns, Frankie is gone. She sees a seedy-looking couple, Terry (Lew Temple) and Margo (Chris McGinn), shoving him into a car. Hopping into her minivan, Karla takes off after them. The movie tracks her efforts to retrieve the boy.

The first half of Kidnap is largely Karla frantically talking to herself in her car, repeatedly yelling, "Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, Goooooood!" as she pursues the abductors. Eventually, she gets out of the car, but the character's vibe doesn't change. Berry – a fine actress often stuck in sub-par junk – has exactly one note to play. She's forced to be hysterical the entire time. That has the effect of making her performance come off as silly and melodramatic. Even as you empathize with Karla, you also kind of want to tell her to STFU after a while.

This poor woman has a lot of car chases in the movie, all of which are more poorly constructed than you can probably imagine without actually seeing them. For such things to work, you need a sense of geography. It's vital to know where one car is in relation to the other, as well as to understand what the drivers are doing. (See Edgar Wright's Baby Driver for a lesson in achieving that correctly.) Based on their work here, director Luis Prieto, cinematographer Flavio Labiano, and editor Avi Youabian have never directed a picture, held a camera, or worked an editing bay before. The chases lack that necessary geography and are assembled in such a sloppy manner that you frequently can't tell what's happening.

Sequences in which Karla physically fights Terry and Margo are similarly incompetent. Kidnap often looks more like a movie's trailer, trying to give you a quick sense of the action without giving it all away, than like the movie itself. To say the action scenes lack excitement would be akin to saying that the desert lacks water, i.e. a massive understatement.

Enormous gaps in logic are just as detrimental. For instance, at one point, Karla chases the couple's car down a country road. They pass a small truck. Her car runs out of gas and stalls; theirs keeps going. She flags down the truck driver when he eventually catches up. "Do you have a cell phone?" she asks. He replies that he only has a radio. She implores him to use it to call the cops. He says reception is bad here, so they'd have go back in the other direction to get to a place where he can use it. "But they went that way!" she yells. "That way is a dead end," the driver informs her. It begs the question: If the road ahead is a dead end, why the hell was he driving toward it?

Here's another question: If the child you're intent on saving is in somebody else's car, why would you repeatedly ram yours into it and try to send it flying off the road? This one presents itself multiple times.

Other supposedly “intense” moments make suppressing laughter impossible. About an hour into Kidnap, Karla's minivan has been thoroughly bashed and beaten from her exploits chasing Terry and Margo. She believes Frankie is being held at the couple's home. She's got the address but doesn't know where it's located. Amazingly, her beautiful dashboard GPS system is not only still functional, but also in absolutely pristine condition. It's literally the only part of the vehicle that hasn't been completely demolished. There isn't a scratch on it.

Plenty more examples can be found, not that I recommend you put yourself through trying to experience them. Kidnap is abysmally written, directed, photographed, and edited. Running a scant 75 minutes before the end credits roll, it's almost as though the movie knows it's garbage and tries to show the audience some semblance of mercy by getting itself over with as quickly as possible.

(1/2 out of four)

Kidnap is rated R for violence and peril. The running time is 1 hour and 21 minutes.

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