It takes all of five minutes for Taylor Lautner to lose his shirt in Abduction — and about 10 more minutes before the film becomes so awful that uncontrollable giggles drown out the dialogue. Lautner, who shot to superstardom overnight playing the werewolf Jacob in the Twilight series, was paid a whopping $7.5 million to star in this generic action picture, although it would be unfair to single him out. Everyone involved in this ridiculous film, from co-stars Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver to director John Singleton (who was once the youngest filmmaker ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar, for Boyz n the Hood, but has since sadly become a hack-for-hire), is in it strictly for the money.
The debut of screenwriter Shawn Christensen, who after this movie should never be allowed near a word processor or any writing utensil again, centers on Nathan (Lautner), a teenager who discovers a photo of himself as a child on a website for missing persons. With the help of classmate Karen (played by Lily Collins, presumably cast because she’s such a terrible actress she never has the opportunity to make her leading man look bad), Nathan discovers his entire existence is a lie. His parents (Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello) aren’t really his parents. He tells his shrink (Weaver) he feels like a stranger in his own life. The fact that there are only two photos of him as a kid in the family album is also an indication something weird is afoot.
Soon, some very bad men come calling, and Nathan and Karen are forced to go on the run. The central premise of Abduction isn’t intrinsically bad, but every aspect of the execution borders on the atrocious. Nathan tells his shrink he suffers from severe insomnia, then in the very next line tells her about a dream he had the previous night. The dialogue constantly induces so many winces, I feared my face would be permanently frozen into a grimace (“You’ve been looking for answers your entire life. You just didn’t know what questions to ask”). The main villain, played by Michael Nyqvist (who starred as the hero in the Danish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), is a textbook example of sleazy Eurotrash heavies, although at least he seems to be aware of the movie he’s making and has some fun with his role. If he had a moustache, he would twirl it into a pretzel.
Although he’s unable to get much out of his actors, Singleton still knows how to pull off an effective action sequence: There is a good fight scene set inside the tight quarters of a train compartment that is well orchestrated and capped off by a surprisingly vicious payoff. But all of Abduction rests on Lautner’s buff shoulders, who is simply not quite ready to carry a movie. The actor does most of his stunts, some of which are quite dangerous, and there’s no denying he’s a charismatic, likable presence: You feel for him even as you’re laughing at him. Not even Al Pacino, though, could do much with lines such as “I just saw my parents get murdered — in front of my eyes!”
Abduction is a crass and lowbrow attempt to cash in on a young actor’s heat. Even Lautner’s father, Dan, is credited as one of the film’s producers. Lautner needs to surround himself with people who have his best interests at heart instead of opportunists who want to exploit what might turn out to be his 15 minutes of fame if he makes many more movies like Abduction.
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, Michael Nyqvist, Sigourney Weaver.
Director: John Singleton.
Screenwriter: Shawn Christensen.
Producers: Doug Davison, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Dan Lautner.
A Lionsgate Films studios release. Running time: 106 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, adult themes, potentially brain-damaging dialogue. Playing at: area theaters