Headlined by Twilight third-wheeler Taylor Lautner, John Singleton’s Abduction is a laughably humourless adolescent espionage thriller whose sole reason for existing is to cash in on the current popularity of its musclebound teenaged star. Brimming with juvenile angst, the film is formula made for the undiscerning tween-aged masses; a formula that is so brazenly on display that adult viewers (having presumably wandered in accidentally, or been dragged by their daughters) may occasionally find themselves guffawing. Truthfully, the only time Abduction registers as having a pulse is when it is so noticeably generic or absurd that it is actually kind of funny. The rest of the time, the film resembles exactly what it is: a made-by-committee exercise in soulless money-grubbing.
I can’t help but feel that it was more than a little ironic that in an early conversation – one that bears all the awkward hallmarks of something written by a room full of adults with only the vaguest understanding of how teenagers actually talk – a side character chastises Lautner’s character Nathan Price for being “too mainstream”. The reason it’s ironic is because Abduction may very well be the most mainstream, calculated and personality-less Hollywood motion picture this year. In the world of Abduction, every single teenager is in shape, attractive, has access to all the latest Apple products, and, with the exception of one black sidekick character who, naturally, knows how to jack a car, get hold of a gun and makes “the best fake ID’s in town”, is very, very white.
But even with his designer clothes, Adonis-like physique and buddies who embody vaguely troubling racial stereotypes, Nathan is still ridden with brooding adolescent emotion. In a counseling session with his psychiatrist (played by Sigourney Weaver, slumming it), we learn that Nathan “doesn’t feel at home in his own life”. When two suit-clad assassins turn up to his door one night and brutally murder his parents, we start to realize that this might not have been just your typical teenage whinging.
Even so, Abduction is typical – painfully, occasionally hilariously so. Taylor made (pun fully intended) for Lautner’s pre-existing fanatical fan base, the film uses it’s half-baked and chiche-riddled espionage plotline as an excuse to set the screen a-smoulder with never ending shots of the young stars eternally tensing jaw muscles and big, angst-filled eyes. Despite looking the part (or maybe not – how many real seventeen-year-olds do you know who are built this this?), Lautner’s acting muscles are far from as toned as his pecs, as he whines his way through the scripts ultra-serious (and as result, often unintentionally amusing) dialogue with tons of commitment but zero conviction.
Uncovering the shocking truth that his parents were actually just CIA agents assigned to protect him while his real father, an undercover field operate, continued his top secret missions around the world, Nathan suddenly finds himself sans protection, being pursued by two equally nefarious forces. One is a corrupt CIA agent played with competent suit-and-tie menace by Alfred Molina (Spiderman 2), while the other is a merciless European crime lord played with fun if totally stereotypical villainy by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
With his life on the line, Nathan goes on the run with his attractive neighbour played by Lily Collins (daughter of musician Phil Collins), whose pouty lips and ass-hugging jeans play a big part in our hero completely shaking off the trauma of seeing his mother and father brutally gunned down in front of him after, oh I don’t know, half a day? Collin’s performance is no better than Lautner’s, while the film consistently positions her as a helpless damsel in distress (not unlike the female lead in another massively popular teenage property that Lautner is involved in, nudge nudge). Not unexpectedly, Lautner and Collins’ heavy make-out session midway through the film ends exactly before the films status as “family friendly” can be called into question. Although I’m sure if these two teenagers had consummated their passion, it would have been the most photogenic, un-awkward movie sex that you could ever roll your eyes at. I guess we’ll have to wait for Breaking Dawn.
Primarily concerned with the aforementioned teenage drama, there is stunningly little action in Abduction, while what little there is is (surprise surprise) noticeably bloodless, and predominately shot and over-edited to the point that it is practically undecipherable. Arguably the best fight in the film is the first one, in which Nathan and his father (Jason Isaacs; Harry Potter’s Lucius Malfoy) engage in a less than father-sonly sparring match. But the scene is so ridiculous that it’s simply impossible to take seriously. The same goes for the climax, which might have been exciting if you weren’t so busy puzzling over when Nathan suddenly taught himself parkour.
Abduction, like Lautner, wants so badly to be taken seriously. But how can you a film like this seriously when its narrative feels as though it was assembled by a computer program, its dialogue is completely devoid of sincerity, and its leading man only appears charismatic by comparison when he is left standing next to his expressionless Twilight co-stars.
If you are a thirteen year old girl who owns her weights worth in Team Jacob merchandise, then Abduction will be right up your alley. Otherwise, steer well clear.
Follow the author Tom Clift on Twitter.