Old 09-25-2011, 12:43 AM
John Singleton's Abduction

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Abduction (2011)

“Abduction” is the kind of movie that shows just how important it is to have a strong script and a lead actor who can carry a film. Sadly, this film has neither, leading one to think that either nobody involved in production bothered reading the script before it got underway or none of the them had ever witnessed Taylor Lautner attempting to act before, perhaps both. As soon as you realize that these two elements of the film are gravely ailing, then you know you’re in for a long sit.

Nathan (Taylor Lautner) is your average high school student. He lives with his parents (Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs) and likes to hang out with friends and party, but we also find out he used to have a bit of a violent temper, causing him to spend time with a psychiatrist, Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver). For his sociology class, he has been assigned a paper to be written with a partner, Karen (Lily Collins), who just happens to be his neighbor across the street.

While doing research on missing persons, they come across a listing for a young boy that looks very similar to Nathan. After using age enhancing technology, Nathan discovers that the young boy would now look very similar to himself. This leads him to question everything in his life including who his real parents are. Not long after bringing these questions to light, Nathan finds his life changed forever as both the CIA and Russian henchmen begin to hunt him down. Karen, having been in the wrong place at the wrong time, finds herself entangled in the mess as well as the two of them go on the run to find out the answers to this mystery.

Starting off with what is perhaps the most detrimental element to the entire film, you really have to wonder who in their right mind would even begin to consider allowing Taylor Lautner to be the leading actor in a film. He’s already shown that he can’t even give a decent supporting performance in the disastrous “Twilight” films, so why would anyone think he could handle carrying a film as the lead?

In his typical wooden fashion, Lautner delivers lines like he has no comprehension at all when it comes to acting. He has even more trouble when the script calls for him to display any kind of emotion. When he is supposed to be falling in love with Karen, it’s hard to tell if he’s interested at all what with his blank expression and dry delivery. There are those that say he may have simply been cast for his looks, but even that’s hard to believe as it looks like he’s been whacked in the face a few times with the 2x4 he’s trying to represent.

It’s also sad to note that great actors like Alfred Molina, who plays a CIA agent on the hunt for Nathan, and Sigourney Weaver somehow got tangled up in this film. Both of these actors have shown that they have pretty good taste in the past when it comes to selecting roles, so their paychecks must have been quite substantial in order for them to forget the shortcomings of the screenplay.

Speaking of the screenplay, we have what could have been quite an interesting story, but after a semi-interesting set up, we quickly discover that the idea was not thought out very far. Instead, we are left with an overly-simplistic attempt at blackmail to recover a list of people who have sold national secrets. Add to this some very bland dialogue and you could tell that the writer, Shawn Christensen, just wasn’t trying very hard. However, it was his first feature, so perhaps he’ll be able to learn from his mistakes before he makes another attempt.

Besides being overly-simplistic, the story also had other problems with it such as an undeveloped subplot involving Molina’s character, Burton. Early on, Dr. Bennett warns Nathan that the only people he can trust are his real father and another character we never end up seeing. She also tells him that Burton specifically is untrustworthy and while it’s mentioned very briefly again in a face to face conversation between Nathan and Burton, it takes all the way until the end of the film for this to come up again, and when it does, it’s resolved in a matter of seconds.

The screenplay is also rather transparent when it comes to setting up incidents that are to come. The prime example comes near the beginning of the film when we see Nathan training to fight with his “father.” This merely lets the audience know that he’s going to have to defend himself later on, and wouldn’t you know it, he has to do just that when he is attacked on a train by one of the Russian henchmen. Another instance would be forcing Nathan and Karen to write a paper together when they haven’t hung out with each other for a few years. You can easily tell where that’s going to lead.

So in the end, we’re left with a semi-interesting story that was poorly executed and poorly thought out with a bad lead performance that merely exemplifies the weaknesses of the script. If “Abduction” is able to accomplish anything at all, let’s hope that it at least gets the message across to filmmakers to stop casting Lautner, at least in parts that require emotion. Hopefully after this they’ll realize that he simply isn’t cut out for this type of work, but then again, a lack of talent hasn’t stopped certain actors before. 2/4 stars.
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Old 09-25-2011, 05:42 PM
It really interests me for some reason just how bland this film looks as well as Lautner's acting (dis)abilities. This is a very well-written review, Hal, but it's a shame it was to critique such an unworthy subject.
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