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I mean… it’s Halle Fucking Berry… (a Kidnap Movie review)

So I went and saw Kidnap with Halle Berry earlier today. You’re not going to see this movie, but you probably SHOULD. Let me make it clear. This is not a very good movie. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it is a good movie. It’s not. Let me stress that. It is low on plot, the cinematography is sub-standard. The editing is bad. There’s not much character development. It is ultimately pretty pointless and there are at least half a dozen movies playing in a cinema near you that are better than this. Do I know how to sell these things or what? I’m even going to spoil what little plot there is to the film in this review. It doesn’t matter. Keep reading and then go see it anyway… and I’ll tell you why.

First, I need to rewind a bit and talk about why I decided to see and review so many movies this summer. There are a couple reasons. First of all, I have a movie problem. That is to say, I watch a lot of movies. I spend a lot of money on DVDs and Blurays, I go to the movies a lot! I’m not a rich man… so it’s maybe a problem. I like the motion pictures. I don’t bet on the ponies. I don’t do heroin. I don’t go to hookers. Let me have this… okay?

That’s why I go to the movies a lot, but lets talk about why I’ve been reviewing them so much. A year or so ago, I started writing reviews of some of the movies I saw… just when I had random thoughts on them. I didn’t want to just write “two thumbs up” or “this is awesome.” I only wrote about them when i had something to say. Maybe it’s not obvious because I curse so fucking much, but usually my reviews have some little nugget of literary or cultural theory in them. Basically, in my spare time I like to still do what I do for a living. Partly because I’m a nutcase. But also because I enjoy it. Most of the stuff I was writing about last year were “geek movies.” Your superhero movies and your star wars and the like. Then a couple people started saying they’d like to know my take on other stuff. At first I was a little resistant. I knew I wouldn’t get as much attention for non-blockbusters and at the end of the day, I’m a press whore. Why bother wasting my time writing about things if no one was going to pay attention, right?

Then I started seeing something interesting happening. I got into a couple of random online arguments about the lack of diversity in movies. Why aren’t there more roles for women, especially older ones? Why aren’t there more roles for people of color? Why aren’t there more LGBTQ roles. You get the picture. And at the end of the day, this is true. There is severe underrepresentation in film for non-straight white dudes. This is unequivocally true. There is UNDERREPRESENTATION. But there is not NO representation.

And that’s when I started seeing something interesting that was really happening. I started following a lot of conversations about geek media and blockbusters and seeing a lot of people complaining about whitewashing in films but also people calling for more “Othered” roles. No one ever calls them Othered roles, because that’s an academic word. But that’s what they’re asking for. “Why is Matt Damon in a movie about the Great Wall of China?” “Why is Scarlet Johansson staring in Ghost in the Shell?” “Why can’t there be a female Doctor Who (which there now is)?” “Why can’t their be an Asian Iron Fist (which there isn’t… and I don’t want there to be, but that’s a story for another time)?”  And then in the cases where someone did try to make a more diverse project, I started seeing people complain that it wasn’t good enough. “It’s great that they’re making a Wonder Woman movie, but why’d they have to pick a skinny white model instead of a woman who was tough looking?” “It’s great that they chose a female Doctor Who, but did she have to be white? Maybe next time pick an asian trans woman.” At one point I got into a conversation with someone who tried to convince me that “the world would have been a much better place if a young Denzel Washington would have been cast as Superman back in the 1970s instead of Christopher Reeve.” I said no… it wouldn’t. It would have ruined Denzel’s career (again, an argument or another time).

So I started paying more and more attention to these complaints. As liberal as I am, I’m also pragmatic. I agree with the premise behind those complaints, but I understand the rationality behind why they’re not just fixed too. At the end of the day, show business is still a business. Movies only matter if you can sell tickets to them. And I wanted to understand why other people don’t seem to get that. The going theory that I heard most often is that “it’s because there’s no options. We can’t go see movies with non-straight white dudes because no one makes them.”

Bullshit!

A few months ago, the Academy gave the Best Picture Award to a movie about the struggles of being black and queer. It’s called Moonlight. No one went to see it.

I love a good blockbuster popcorn movie . When I decided I was going to go to the movies at least once a week this summer, I decided I didn’t want to review JUST superhero movies. Even though I knew the blockbusters would be what people were mostly interested in. But since I like other movies besides just the big blockbuster popcorn movies, and since none of you are paying me to go see them, I figured rather than limit myself to them, I’d see the ones that I wanted to see and then on other days I’d see things that just looked interesting to me. Things that were different. And I’m glad I did. Because if my reviews got even one person to see The Big SickBaby Driver, or Girls Trip, then it was all worth it (and really, if you did go see one of these movies just because I said, so then I wish you’d let me know. Because again, I’m a press whore. Also tell your friends, goddammit… I’m providing a valuable service. We whores are like that…

ANYWAY!!!! It’s not that there are NO roles outside of straight white dudes. It’s that they don’t get to be in the big movies. The reason Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson are in The Great Wall and Ghost in the Shell is that those aren’t very good movies. Sometimes when you have a not a very good movie, you toss a bankable movie star in it so that people will go see it anyway. It really doesn’t matter what Matt Damon is in. In the last decade, he has made Jason Bourne movies, Oceans movies and the Martian. And people love those movies…and great. He also bought a fucking zoo (with Scarlet Johansson, no less). And you know what? People still went to go see it. Because it’s Matt Damon and someone will give it a shot even if the concept is really shitty. It just doesn’t matter. By all accounts fans were, at best lukewarm on the most recent Bourne film. They went and saw it anyway. It made $415million on a $120million budget ($26M of which was Damon’s salary). Have you ever seen Lucy with Scarlet Johansson? It is… not good. It’s not horrible… but it’s not by any reasonable usage of the term, “good.” It’s a movie where ScarJo gets to run around and kill people with her brain for 90 min. If that’s what you’re looking for then fine, but it doesn’t even remotely make any sense and has no narrative consistency. Like not even a little. The acting is subpar. The fights aren’t great. The special effects are cheesy. And she’s never even naked in it. But it doesn’t matter. People saw it anyway. It made $463million on a $40million dollar budget. And because they did, ScarJo and Damon get shoved into every movie. It’s all about return on investment.

This week’s big blockbuster opening is The Dark Tower. I’ve never read any of the books, so I’m not a built in fan, and other than Idris Elba’s voiceover, the trailers really didn’t look any good (and the reviews are kind of backing that up) so I had no desire to go see it. Again, totally willing to review it… you know… like if someone paid me… whore and all that… What I really wanted to see this week was Detroit, but Steph wants to see that too, so I’m waiting for her. So I decided to go take a chance on Kidnap at a $5 matinee, because even though it didn’t look super good, the trailer kind of intrigued me. Besides, I figured if nothing else, it had Halle Berry in it. And if nothing else, that’s always worth at least a look. Why? Because she’s Halle Fucking Berry, that’s why!

This is what I like to call an extended trailer movie. Have you seen the trailer? If not, here it is.

Now you know the whole story. That’s it. That’s the whole movie. The film is exactly what you see in the trailer for 95 minutes instead of two. Halle Berry is a single mom. Five minutes into the film someone kidnaps her son, so she hops into her car and chases them for the next ninety minutes. She will stop at nothing to get back her child. That’s it. That’s all there is. Nothing else! Spoiler alert, she gets him back at the end. Surprised? I didn’t think so. Now you know everything. Nothing else happens — seriously! There are literally no surprises.

And it’s fine. It really is. It’s not super engaging, but I liked it. It doesn’t have the best production value. No one in it is really interesting. There’s no reason for this movie to exist at all. But it’s kind o fun. If it sounds like you recognize the story, it’s because you do. It’s exactly the same plot as Taken (which one? all of them). But Taken was exactly the same movie as Ransom. In fact this exact movie has been made like 100 times. The twist in this case is that unlike Liam Neeson, she doesn’t have a particular set of skills. She’s just a mom. Don’t fuck with a mom’s kid! That’s the movie. That’s it!

As I said, there are problems with it. The production value is super low for a Hollywood release like this. It’s only $20million. And sometimes you can tell. Not only is the camerawork, directing and film editing substandard, there are some clear choices made to conserve budget. Given the concept, one might expect that there’s going to be a lot car crashes during a movie that essentially has an hour long car chase. And there are. You see them in the trailer. But crashing cars is expensive. So there’s lot of times where car crashes happen and you just don’t see them. Cars will swerve, you’ll see Berry look out the window and then turn away only to hear a “car crash” that is never actually shown. This happens SEVERAL TIMES.

But it’s not awful. The thrill of the chase is there (I mean, all it is is a chase). The simple storyline gives you a reason to care (a cute little kid is kidnapped). The editing and camerawork aren’t really any worse than Taken (I mean, I love those movies… but the camerawork is shit… and 27 cuts to get Liam Neeson over a fence?!?!? are you shitting me?). In fact, the idea is interesting… and for all its faults, Halle Berry is an Academy Award winning actor (something neither Damon or ScarJo can say) for a reason. She’s good in this… she’s quite believable. It’s not her best role ever, but it certainly isn’t her worst. The woman made Catwoman for HOVA’s sake, and she’s in Movie 43, which is so abysmal that I’d be amazed if anyone reading this other than me has ever seen it. She’s a good actress and at 50 still beautiful enough that even with Hollywood sexism she can play a believable action star (Neeson was 56 in the first Taken). Most of the faults of this movie could have been fixed an additional $20million of budget.

Only that’s never going to happen because no one is actually interested in seeing movies like this starring black fifty year old black women, no matter what their acting pedigree. And there is the flaw. Do you know how I know? Because the film is also basically the same movie as The Call, which also starred Berry, four years ago, and at $68million dollars, it was considered a blazing success. It far outperformed expectations., and is still way under what a flop makes with a bankable white actor.

At a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has mediocre-at-best reviews. But so does pretty much every film in this genre including Taken (at 58%). In fact, the Taken sequels are at 21% and 11% respectively. The Call made 44%. They’re all the same movie. The concept just is what it is. This is not going to win any awards. But it turns out I kind of like car chase movies and kidnap movies and for 95 solid minutes, I was definitely entertained.

So if you’re a fan of the kidnap movie genre or the car chase movie genre, then this is pretty much exactly what you’re looking for. Minus a few car explosions — But with the addition of a black actress protagonist over the age of thirty.

So I ask you, what is it you really want? Diversity or explosions?

★★☆☆☆+💁🏾 (2 out of 5 stars, plus Halle Fucking Berry!)

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14 comments for “I mean… it’s Halle Fucking Berry… (a Kidnap Movie review)

  1. avatar
    August 6, 2017 at 6:57 am

    I saw Movie 43. The leprechaun bit is so close to a short classmates from film school made, it earned points with me for nostalgia. I searched the credits and didn’t see the names of those former classmates but their hilarious student film, 205 Chesterfield, from 1995 might have influenced Movie 43 somewhere in the past.

    It, naturally, didn’t make my top 100 (I posted that status yesterday, if you’re interested), but I figured I’d let you know you’re not alone.

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