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'Abduction' takes a bad script — and runs with it

Published September 22, 2011 4:52 pm

Movie review • Decent premise undermined by atrocious execution, laughable dialogue.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It takes all of five minutes for Taylor Lautner to lose his shirt in "Abduction" — and about 10 more before the film becomes so awful that the uncontrollable laughter bursts forth.

Lautner, who shot to superstardom virtually 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 allowed near even a word processor or any sort of writing utensil again, centers on Nathan (Lautner), an ordinary teenager who discovers a photo of him taken as a child on a website for missing persons. With the help of his classmate Karen (played by Lily Collins, presumably cast because she's such a bad actress she never has the opportunity to make her leading man look bad), Nathan discovers everything about his life 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 a clear 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 original 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 mustache, 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 by a surprisingly vicious payoff. But all of "Abduction" rests on the buff shoulders of Lautner, who is too green and inexperienced to carry a movie on his own. Lautner does most of his stunts, some of which are potentially dangerous, and there's no denying he's a charismatic actor: 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 — an exploitation picture where the person being taken advantage of is too young to notice. Even his father, Dan, is listed as one of the producers. You come away from "Abduction" thinking the actor needs to clean house and surround himself with people who have his best interests at heart, instead of opportunists who want to exploit what will turn out to be his 15 minutes of fame if he makes many more movies like this one. —

H

Abduction

A crass and lowbrow attempt to cash in on a young actor's heat.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens today.

Rating • PG-13 for vulgar language, violence, adult themes.

Running time • 106 minutes.