by Rob DiCristino
Kidnap (2017, Dir. Luis Prieto)
Anyway. Kidnap may hate its audience, but it really hates its star. Halle Berry (who also has a producer credit, though it’s not clear if that was for work performed or just some sort of apology) spends the film crying in mid close-up and using long monologues to fill in plot details and character beats that there just wasn’t time to shoot (film is a verbal medium, after all). It’s truly uncanny how little Kidnap trusts its audience to grasp ideas such as “A mother will do anything to recover her son,” or “People with no money are very desperate,” or “iPhone batteries should really last longer” without having them explained. That last one is fake, but it does bring up the most curious aspect of Kidnap’s plotting: Berry’s character drops her cell phone when she sees her son abducted. She gets in her car and chases the assailant, and she’s never more than fifty feet away from him for the first half of the film. Did Terrence (Temple, the kidnapper) know she didn’t have a phone? Did he have a plan for fending off police officers she might have called? What if she took his picture and doxxed him? What about a gun? She walks right up to the car at one point. What if she just shot him? Am I going insane?
American Assassin, Nerve, or Gods of Egypt. Little movies that could, so to speak, movies that feel like they were made by space aliens who live on a strange and exciting planet of nonsensical wonder. Kidnap is certainly from a different planet, but it’s a planet full of pain and darkness where everyone’s crying and shouting all the time. Alright, I guess that’s our planet. Point taken. This analogy might be falling apart, but that doesn’t make Kidnap any better. Let me start over. I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s the kind of movie that makes Redboxing really uncomfortable, like watching someone’s first open mic stand-up set or their last game as an over-the-hill athlete. Completed in 2014 (probably riding the Taken train), the movie was apparently shelved four separate times while Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy and was eventually picked up by Aviron Pictures, who promptly took a bath on its release. That kind of makes Kidnap a lost soul, doesn’t it? An orphan I’ve brought in from the rain. Maybe that makes it all worth it. Maybe not.
Bullet Head (2017, Dir. Paul Solet)
Writer/director Paul Solet (who also helmed a segment of Tales of Halloween) offers a script straight out of a hard-nosed, Cagney-era (era) gangster film. Characters are constantly talking about screws and scores, and Malkovich in particular seems to have no shortage of Prison Wisdom to share with the others. Though it sports many hallmarks of a first script (it’s at times precious and overwritten, and most of the characters speak with the same voice), Solet’s creative visual style prevents the film from skewing too far into late '90s Tarantino-ripoff territory. Three key flashbacks highlight a strong animal motif (dogs, chickens, and tropical fish) and there’s even a stray bunny waddling around the warehouse that plays a key role later on. An additional thread of flashbacks fleshes out both Banderas’ story and that of the dog, De Niro (all of the fighting dogs are named after tough guy actors like Brando and Newman, a detail that would be obnoxious if the film lingered on it any longer than it does). Actually, Bullet Head deserves a lot of credit in this area; it plays up its gangster fetishism without getting so lost in it that it becomes farcical.
Skyfall), but it’s earnest and, as opposed to last week’s selections, takes good care of its genre. Solet and his team want every shot to be special and entertaining, and, even if a few bits fall flat, Bullet Head is super excited to be what it is. One note: I can’t help feeling like things could have gone a little pulpier at times, a little more In Bruges absurd. Maybe the instinct to ground the film in some kind of heightened reality robbed it of a little bit of its charm. After all, this is a movie about criminals trapped in an enclosed space by a killer dog. Maybe don’t be so in love with the dog? Again, I’m horrible. Overall, though, Bullet Head is a calling card movie, something to be presented to investors in hopes of scoring a bigger, badder dream project. In that respect, it does the trick.