Taylor Lautner, sliding down a glass building, chunks flying in every direction. A helicopter passes ominously overhead. It’s the promise of the greatest adventure the world has ever seen, or at least the greatest amount of amorphous non-crystalline solid material in a single motion picture. The presence of Academy Award nominated director John Singleton, who started strong with Boyz N The Hood before moving onto Shaft and 2 Fast 2 Furious, gives some cause for hope, but the downward trajectory his career has taken in the last decade is no island of refuge.
Typical high school student Nathan (martial artist, model and actor Taylor Lautner, The Twilight Saga) is researching child abduction for school with his secret crush Karen (Lily Collins, Priest) when he inadvertently discovers that he may be an abductee. Before he gets a chance to quiz his parents, they are executed by an elite team and Nathan and Karen are on the run. Aided only by Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver, Paul), the duo must find Nathan’s real father before bad guy Kozlow (Michael Nyquist, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) or CIA man Burton (Alfred Molina, The Tempest) finds him.
Abduction may be the work of pure genius. Time may tell on this one, as audiences return to it over the years, with writer Shawn Christensen (of indie rock band stellastarr*) becoming the next Joe Eszterhas. Abduction may be to thrillers what Showgirls is to erotic pulp drama. On the other hand, it may be exactly what appears to be on face value: a loosely plotted action film based around things that demographic testing suggested Lautner fans would like to see. Twilight fans on Team Jacob will love that the frequently wolfy actor appears shirtless, or at least in some state of undress, from an early point in the film and remains that way whenever possible. One has to travel light when on the lam, after all.
Lautner may make a nice hunk of meat to look at in the Twilight films, and as a counter to Robert Pattinson, yet as we rapidly discovered in the ensemble film Valentine’s Day, he has the range of a sun-warped water pistol. As a leading man, he puts the abs into abduction, but simply doesn’t have the chops to give weight to even this meagre material. He is, to his credit, largely responsible for much of the unintended comedy in the film, but he shouldn’t be solely attributed with this success. Collins proves to be as uninteresting as the character she played in Priest, an analogue of Natalie Wood’s classic spot in The Searchers, and she seems intent on replicating Wood’s eyebrows as well. Alfred Molina and Nyquist are absolutely wasted in their carbon-copy villains.
There is an air of inevitability to everything in Abduction, with seemingly shoddy parenting in the form of Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2) and Maria Bello (Grown Ups), including the physical beating of a hungover Nathan by his dad, all part of the exposition and martial arts skills that Nate would need one day to enable Christensen’s lightly-plotted tale. Had this been anything other than a vehicle for Lautner, all the elements were in place for an intriguing exploration of the psychology of displacement. A junior version of The Bourne Identity if you will. Indeed, it attempts some of the same rapid-fire action sequences as that superior series, but a score of scraps on a train recall far too many films that have done it better. Yet like everything else in this film, they always fall short of achieving anything other than laughter in an attempt to be all things to all people.
Abduction is released on 22 September 2011 in Australia from Roadshow Films.