Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Abduction
A lot of moviegoers tend to associate director John Singleton with hard hitting dramas that, more often than not, have focused on controversial topics including socio-economic inequality and racial tensions – so, no doubt, it came as a surprise when the famed filmmaker chose to shoot a film starring Taylor Lautner. Abduction had been sold to Lionsgate with the Twilight heart-throb already attached – with the intention of testing the young star’s leading-man mettle as well as capturing his Twi-hard fan base.
Singleton is confident in the final cut of Abduction and is already talking up a sequel. However, will audiences be as impressed with the action thriller, and Lautner’s headlining performance, or is the movie just an attempt by Hollywood executives to cash in on big names – without having to deliver a competent piece of entertainment?
As mentioned, despite allusions to the contrary in the film’s marketing, the Abduction story is pretty basic: Nathan Price (Taylor Lautner) is a high school kid who feels out of place (like most high school kids). However, after Price and his neighbor, Karen Lowell (Lily Collins), find a childhood picture of him (as well as a computer-rendered image of what he would look like now) on a missing person’s website, the teenager is thrown into a massive government conspiracy – and, subsequently, a run-for-your-life adventure. Hot on his heels are a variety of mysterious people – such as Frank Burton (Alfred Molina) and Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) to name a few – all with hazy motivations. In order to stop running, and get back to a “normal” life, Price is forced into a series of dangerous altercations in a desperate attempt to uncover the truth about his past.
Throughout the runtime, Abduction appears to fancy itself much smarter than what actually plays out onscreen would indicate. This is a film that takes itself very seriously – with very few comedic moments and a few pretty brutal altercations (especially considering the film’s PG-13 rating). As a result, the movie is a mishmash of “moments” that the filmmakers must have felt were important for “telling” Price’s character arc – robbing the proceedings of credibility as each of these isolated moments undermine prior scenes and don’t successfully build upon each other.
For example (being as vague as possible), there’s a character that is identified early on in the film as someone Price can trust and, when things get out of hand, he and Lowell decide to head across the country to rendezvous with said person – until they hit a bump in the road and the plot line is completely derailed (and the aforementioned character vanishes from the story, never to be mentioned again). This might sound like a minor thing but if you were to chart the actual movement of the characters in Abduction, you’d quickly discover that there’s a significant amount of “filler” – Price and Co. backtracking ground and retreading story ideas. The film lacks a real narrative drive and, for a story about people on the run, most of the characters are just wandering in circles – which, given a predictable and awkward plot, is especially boring to watch.
As mentioned, Lautner has been attached to Abduction for a long time – with studio heads no doubt testing his leading man muscle. Surely, Lautner handles himself well in some of the more physical moments of the film – he appears to have done a lot of his own running, jumping, and fighting – but falls entirely flat in intimate character moments. Despite a truly horrendous set of circumstances that occur in the first act of the movie, Price does very little but lower his eyebrows and pace around. It’s unfortunate because, watching Abduction, it’s easy to imagine Lautner (with a few more years under his belt) able to succeed in the same market Sam Worthington has been culling over the last few years – relying on physical/strong but silent type roles. However, Hollywood (in a mad rush to capitalize on the young actor’s Twilight profile) has pushed him out the gate too soon – and undercut his chances of headlining another character-focused action thriller for awhile.
The rest of the cast is serviceable but bland. Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver are completely wasted (and have some of the worst lines that either actor has likely ever delivered). Ultimately, these characters are reduced to outlines who, as the story progresses, could have added a lot to the proceedings – if they had been given more to work with. Lilly Collins actually offers the most compelling performance in the movie – even elevating some of the scenes where Lautner isn’t particularly convincing – as Price drags her character from one messed up scenario on to another. She’s a competent addition and about the only cast member who seemed to know that the film wasn’t going to get by on plot, melodrama, and Lautner’s name alone.
In the end, there’s very little to celebrate in Abduction. Aside from a few of the more physical moments in movie, the story is generic and cliche’, the characters are one dimensional shells with little to do but run from place to place, and the performances are stilted at best and, more often than not, completely cheesy. Fans of Taylor Lautner will likely be satisfied by seeing the actor try on his leading man chops as well as enjoy the five separate occasions where the Twilight star takes off his shirt but, for fans of worthwhile trips to the theater, Abduction is hard to recommend.
If you’re still on the fence about Abduction, check out the trailer below:
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Abduction is now in theaters.