I was excited when I saw the cast. Listen to the actors involved in this production. There’s Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Michael Nyqvist and Maria Bello. Okay, so there’s also Taylor Lautner in the lead role, as well as Lily Collins as his sidekick, but I was hopeful that the supporting cast could allow it to be a worthwhile watch. For a while, I actually believed that Abduction could be a good film.
Even the first 20 minutes or so weren’t that bad. We watched Nathan (Lautner) and his friends go to a party and get drunk. He wakes up the next morning hungover and stripped of his shirt. Those of you who have seen the Twilight films are probably used to seeing Lautner without a shirt on, but surprisingly, it stays on his person for the majority of this film. Nathan goes home to find out that his father (Jason Isaacs) wants to have a boxing session, so they fight, and it’s enjoyable. It’s especially fun because the younger of the two gets beaten up quite a bit. He’s also grounded for a week because he didn’t call home. How adorable.
We watch the young Nathan go to school and get assigned a project to work on with his neighbor, Karen (Collins). Their project has something to do with missing children, or maybe just people in general, it’s not really elaborated on. When looking at one website, they see a child that looks remarkably similar to Nathan. They do a digital reconstruction of what the child might look like now, and it’s almost a perfect match. Then they look closer at the younger photo, and they see that the shirt the child is wearing is the same on that Nathan had as a kid. It even has the same stain on the right shoulder. Weird, right?
Well, apparently not. This was a trap, and Nathan fell right into it. Things happen which I won’t spoil, a little bit of Spy Kids action goes on in regards to Nathan’s parents, and eventually Nathan and Lilly end up on the run from not one, but two parties. The first claims to be the CIA, and is led by Alfred Molina, while the second is a bunch of Russian guys led by Michael Nyqvist. Can the pair trust anyone? Will they get out alive? Who knows, but more importantly, does anyone care?
I certainly didn’t. Nathan was as bland as you might expect a Taylor Lautner character to be played. He’s your typical teenager — shy around girls, loves playing video games and hanging out with friends — and yet, he is an amazing athlete and could easily be the most popular person at the school. He also has weird dreams, which he explains to his shrink (Sigourney Weaver), and that’s about as deep as his personality gets.
What’s strange about director John Singleton’s picture is that he seems to think his characters are deep, and that we deserve to spend a lot of time with them when they’re not doing anything. The plot doesn’t really kick in until maybe the half hour mark, and even after we do start to roll, there are points when characters will stop just to chat and let us get to know them — all the bland, lifeless them that there is to know.
His “friend”, Karen, isn’t much better. She basically serves no purpose except to give Nathan someone to talk to throughout, and even when it would be intelligent to leave her so that she can be safe, he doesn’t because, well, I’m not really sure. She protests against going home, although she’s not the target anyway. He is, because there’s a list that his father — his real father, anyway, as it turns out that Isaacs’ character wasn’t really his dad — stole, that everyone else wants. There’s more to the list than just that, but it serves as the MacGuffin to drive the plot.
Does the story really make sense when you look at it from afar? I don’t think so, although that matters little in the moment. There are parts that needed more explanation though, like how Molina’s character’s name is on the list, and why that matters, or what happens if the list falls into the wrong hands. I cared more about this list, which we only see in its encrypted form (which Nathan can apparently read or something, I dunno), than any of the characters.
I’m not going to get into whether or not Taylor Lautner makes a good action star. That will depend entirely on how you see him, and whether or not you can believe it. Personally, I didn’t think he had it in him, but if you’re a big fan, you’ll probably overlook any of his flaws anyway. I can say that he desperately struggled with the more dramatic scenes, line delivery, or even acting like a normal human being whenever he wasn’t being chased.
Not that the writing helped him out any. The lines are all terribly written, with either clichés coming out every time a character speaks, or dialogue that just makes you cringe when you hear it. I’m not going to put the sole blame on Lautner, although he certainly deserves a lot of the flack, but whoever wrote the dialogue needs to go outside and listen to real people talk.
What gets to me most is how poorly the established actors were used. Weaver gets three scenes total, I believe, Nyqvist is always just in the background, except for one scene during a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game which comes close to being the sole highlight, while Molina plays basically the same character as Nyqvist, being used in the same way: Poorly. If Abduction goes to prove anything, it’s that Lautner cannot, at least at this point in his career, carry an action film alone.
This would still all be okay if the action was entertaining, but it just isn’t. The action scenes follow this sort of pattern: Fist fight, car chase, fist fight, car chase. Rinse and repeat as often as you can in the remaining hour and change after the plot kicks in, and I’ve basically described the entire movie. Well, there are those scenes when the characters, and the audience get a break, but they end up dragging us down because the actors involved in them don’t make us believe in their characters.
Abduction is, in short, terrible, especially given how good it starts and how talented the supporting cast members are. But Lautner can’t carry this film, the secondary actors are all underutilized, while the writing and action scenes were all lackluster. The plot doesn’t even make complete sense, with things needing exposition being ignored, and things easily understood given all of the time. Unless you want to watch Taylor Lautner being chased around for 100 minutes, you have no reason to spend your time with Abduction.