Prior to its opening credits, Never Let Go displays some text talking about how many child abductions there are every year. This kind of text tends to position a film somewhere in the real world. This is the first big mistake of this film, which seems to want to be perceived as Taken with a female main character. Taken was an entertaining piece of ridiculousness, a compelling justice fantasy that removes itself from any sense of verisimilitude. With that opening text, what follows in this picture is questionable at best and downright offensive at worst.
The movie tells the story of Lisa (Angela Dixon), a woman who has just recently given birth. She isn’t in the best mental state at the start of the film; she’s clearly haunted by something, and overwhelmed by her new circumstance. She flies off to Morocco to lie low and enjoy some vacation time. While out on the beach one day, her baby is stolen for her. But Lisa is no ordinary mother. She has had training to make genuinely dangerous. She takes the law into her own hands to find the people who stole her baby and make them pay.
So this is yet another story of a white person going to a foreign land and being taken advantage of. And of course, it’s really only the white person who can do anything about it. The local police are only doing their job in trying to stop her from taking justice into her own hands, but this still makes them bad guys. The film doesn’t leave much moral ambiguity here. Lisa is totally in the right for doing things on her own. She is right not to trust anyone else with the safety of her daughter. Only she is the one with the right skills and motivation to save the child.
It’s just another big justice fantasy that plays on a toxic worldview. But this time, the whole thing is grounded in some hazy statistic about how many children are abducted every year. And so the whole thing becomes a lot more questionable. The addition of a late game twist only makes things murkier. How can this film seriously address the issues brought up in the opening text while still being this ridiculous action movie? The approaches are inherently incompatible.
Not that it’s any good as an action movie, either. The direction tries very hard to make its scenes look kinetic, but it mostly makes the film look disjointed. The camera cuts too close and too quickly for anything to register. A lot of it seems designed to hide the limitations of its lead actress, Angela Dixon. Dixon, whose accent gets in the way of her performance, just doesn’t have the skills or the physicality to really sell the fights that happen in this movie. But she is still probably the best among the pretty subpar group of actors.
Never Let Go only gets sillier as it goes on. It becomes harder and harder to latch on to the quest of the main character. It doesn’t have any real forward momentum, Lisa never really showing off any skills or resources that lead to the next phase of the story. And so, the film settles for contrivances and ludicrous twists, taking everything even farther away from the reality it’s supposedly trying to reflect. Never Let Go could have chosen one path over another. It could be a serious film about child abductions, or it could have been a Taken-like thriller. It choose both, and it suffers because of it.