Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lautner preens and pouts in absurd "Abduction"


Abduction (2011)
106 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: D +

Ever since he sported the ready-for-war crew cut and first took off his shirt to reveal a brick-shithouse build in the "Twilight" movies, Taylor Lautner has been groomed as the next Matt Damon. His first headlining vehicle, "Abduction," could be a teenage "Bourne Identity," but it feels more like a bad Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. 

First introduced as a daredevil, riding on the hood of a speeding truck and then thinking he's old enough to party like a college frat boy, Pennsylvania high schooler Nathan (Lautner) has it tough. He drinks too much, wakes up shirtless on the front lawn of a house party, and gets picked up by his father, Kevin (Jason Isaacs), who makes his hung-over son box him. His mom, Mara (Maria Bello), is a bit easier on him by just grounding him. Nathan has good friends and he's the top wrestler on the team, but as he tells his psychiatrist, Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver), he feels like a stranger in his own life. Then after doing online research for his sociology project about missing children, Nathan and his neighbor classmate, Karen (Lily Collins), come upon a photo of a 3-year-old named Steven Price who looks just like him. Conveniently, he recognizes the stained baby shirt in the picture and finds the same shirt still in his dresser drawer. Coincidence? Not a chance. Immediately after Mara confesses what's been kept a secret from Nathan, shady bad guys shoot down his parental impostors. From there on, Nathan and Karen go on the run and must be careful who they trust, including CIA Agent Burton (Alfred Molina). 

"Abduction" answers questions to why Nathan is having dreams of a dying woman and who his birth parents were, but those answers are more trivial and less interesting than the howlers that ensue. Before Nathan and Karen evade a bunch of assassins and federal operatives, one of the injured bad guys tells them there's a bomb in the oven. When did they find the time to plant a bomb? And why would the dim couple run to open the oven? Did they expect confetti? After this, Nathan checks Karen into a hospital, where Dr. Bennett shows up as his prime protector and proceeds to hide the three of them undetected behind, get this, an assortment of balloons. Next, she tells them to jump out of her speeding SUV and onto a "soft curve" on the side of the road. Great protection. Then, later on a train, watching the barely legal Lautner suck face on a train with the bushy-browed Collins feels like voyeurism. And once he shows off his martial-arts skills on a henchman, the movie intercuts between establishing shots of the train moving to a flashback of Nathan training with his pretend father. Get on it with already! In the climax, set at the Three Rivers Stadium for a Pittsburgh Pirates game, a gun is placed under a seat, another convenience for the plot. 

Unsuspensefully directed by John Singleton ("Boyz n the Hood") and inanely written by Shawn Christensen, "Abduction" at least moves fast enough that you might not realize how little sense it makes (but maybe you will). Even for an escapist action-thriller, it's a surprise no one gave a screenplay once-over to patch up all the plot holes and clean up the laughable dialogue. Also, why would talents such as Bello, Isaacs, Weaver, Molina, and Michael Nyqvist (of the Swedish "Millennium" trilogy) even participate? Lautner may be able to carry a cover of "Tiger Beat," but an entire movie is a different story. Whenever he tries to emote, we await his grand transformation into werewolf Jacob. His blank looks are all the same. Down the road, Lautner could be an action hero, but "Abduction" is the wrong vehicle to promise that. There's plenty to laugh at, not with, in this vapid, underthought potboiler, also one of the more sloppily edited movies in recent memory. 

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