Movie has been sitting on the shelf for two years; it should have stayed there

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“Kidnap” plays like its script is being held for ransom.

This is an incredibly simple set-up: Karla Dyson (Halle Berry, remember when she won an Oscar?) has a 6-year-old son who gets kidnapped one day at the park. She chases the kidnappers. That’s it!

When handled correctly, this kind of efficiency can lead to straightforward genre thrills: Think “Run,” the 1991 action pic with Patrick Dempsey, or “Cellular,” the fast-paced 2004 thrill ride with Kim Basinger and Chris Evans. (Both films also had clean one-word titles.)

But “Kidnap” doesn’t have the crackerjack, kinetic visual style it needs to work — director Luis Prieto switches between low- and high-speed chases on a whim — and it’s too simple for its own good. There are no twists or turns in the story, or even any satisfying motivations for the kidnapping at its center. It happens, then a chase commences. There are birthday cards with more complexity.

Berry is in the position of having to emote and act manic, mostly while sitting behind the wheel of a car — her nearly indestructible Chrysler minivan is the film’s true star — and sometimes while explaining things aloud, to herself. Meryl Streep couldn’t have done much better in the role. (Although it’s worth noting that when handled correctly, sitting behind a car wheel can still make for riveting viewing; see Tom Hardy in “Locke.”)

The kidnappers are generic backwoods lowlifes who are given no character development and are only meant to be frightening goons. “Kidnap” was shot in 2014 and has been sitting on the shelf for two years. Frankly, it should have stayed missing.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Kidnap’

GRADE: D+

Rated R for violence and peril

Running time: 95 minutes

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