Friday, September 7, 2012

"Abduction" (2011)

Starring Taylor Lautner, Lilly Collins and Alfred Molina
Written by Shawn Christensen
Directed by John Singleton
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 106 Minutes

Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner) is living a lie.  He goes to school, hangs out with his friends, but when he goes home, his parents teach him to be wary of the outside world, how to fight and to take care of himself.  While working on a sociology project with the girl next door he's had a crush on since 8th grade, Karen (Lilly Collins), Nathan discovers that his suspicions are correct.  His face appears on a missing persons website, and he tries to find the truth.

No sooner do his parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello) confess that they are not his biological parents than they are brutally murdered by foreign agents.  Now Nathan and Karen are on the run.  Nathan's therapist, Dr. Geri Bennett (Sigourney Weaver), reveals that she also knows the truth about Nathan, and tells him not to trust anyone but herself and a man named Martin Price.

On Nathan's heels are the forces of the CIA led by Agent Frank Burton (Alfred Molina), who claims he just wants to keep Nathan and Karen safe, and evil terrorist Nikola Kozlow (Michael Nyqvist).  Why is Kozlow trying to kill Nathan?  What secret is the CIA trying to protect?  With no one to trust, Nathan realizes that the only person who might be able to help is the one man he thinks wants nothing to do with him: his own father.

"Abduction" is a middle of the road thriller starring hunk-of-the-day Taylor Lautner, fresh off his career-making performances in the popular "Twilight" series.  It starts off well enough, with some intriguing concepts and some interesting flourishes, playing like a Jason Bourne thriller for the "Twilight" crowd.  But the problem is that while the film starts off well enough, it loses its lustre partway through.  The second half of the film almost doesn't feel like it was written by the same guy.

Lautner is decent enough when he's at school or hanging with his friends, he even does pretty well with his fights and chase sequences.  It's only when he's asked to express the deeper emotions of a young man struggling to figure out who he is and who his parents are that he falters.  He just doesn't seem capable of conveying the kind of torment such a character would be in.

Likewise, Lilly Collins, while attractive, doesn't have much emotional meat to her role.  It's difficult to judge her talent when she's given so little to do except to stand next to Lautner or run behind him.  Still, there's nothing she does that's bad, so I can't really fault her for a script that leaves her character fairly hollow.

Direction from John Singleton is pretty solid, with a few interesting flourishes in the first half of the film that, again, seem to disappear later on.  Whatever happened to the few stylish bits that show up in the beginning?  The second half of the film just settles into a generic thriller that could have been directed by anyone.  Even the film's climax at a crowded baseball stadium seems too small and simple compared to the rest of the movie.

Ultimately, that makes "Abduction" not an easy recommendation.  None of it is terrible, though Lautner's acting could use some work.  But it falls off after the first half.  All the interesting parts of the film occur in the first forty minutes or so, and ultimately the film ends up feeling small.  With some slight modification, it wouldn't be too much out of the realm of being a solid TV pilot, but as a film it just isn't up to snuff.