Monday, October 3, 2011


You know a movie is in trouble when its title has no relevance to its subject matter. Webster’s defines abduction as “to carry off (as a person) by force.” The second part of the definition clarifies abduction as “the unlawful carrying away of a woman for marriage or intercourse.” For the record, nobody abducts anybody in the straightforward but derivative John Singleton pursuit procedural thriller “Abduction.” “Twilight” heartthrob Taylor Lautner carries the picture on his shoulders as a sympathetic hero who takes it on the lam when he discovers his parents are not related to him by blood. If you’ve seen the “Abduction” trailers, you know that our handsome high school hero discovers his face at a missing persons website equipped with software which enables users to see what the person would appear now as an adult. Our heroine and the heroine realize their worst fears when the resemblance between the computer generated image and he are virtually identical. Not only does “Abduction” (** out of ****) qualify as a lackluster white-knuckled suspense saga, but also it is far less entertaining than a similar thriller “Hanna” about an adolescent girl on the run. Furthermore, the Taylor Lautner hero is far from being a lethal weapon. He doesn’t kill as many people as Hanna, and he isn’t as comfortable with his transient lifestyle as Hanna. Lautner the actor manages to hold his own around a substantially heavyweight supporting cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Maria Bellow, and Michael Nyqvist. The target audience for this PG-13 rated road trip ranges between ages 10 and 16. Lautner sheds his shirt often enough for his female fans, and he acquits himself adequately in all his close-quarters combat scenes. Nevertheless, “Abduction” will not carry you away.

Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner of the “Twilight” franchise) feels like something is wrong with his parents. They strike him as being strange, but he has no clue about how strange that they ultimately turn out to be. Otherwise, Nathan is no different than any other high school junior. He is the kind of athlete who never loses a wrestling match. He lives across the street from a drop-dead-gorgeous cutie, Karen (young Elizabeth Taylor look-alike Lily Collins of “The Blind Side”), who he has not dated since the eighth grade. Currently, Karen is involved with a college-age clown, but she eventually gives him the boot. Meanwhile, when Nathan isn’t in school or partying hardy at a neighbor’s house, he attends therapy sessions with his shrink, Geraldine Bennett (Sigourney Weaver of “Alien”), who seems genuinely concerned about his welfare. Nathan has trouble sleeping. He has had a history of violence, but the authorities haven't had to take him into custody. Further, he has a recurring nightmare about seeing a woman in a Parisian motel being killed. Nathan witnesses this cold-bloodied murder as a child beneath a bed. No matter what Nathan does, however, he cannot seem to please his pugnacious father, Kevin (Jason Issacs of the “Harry Potter” franchise) who constantly picks fights with him. Little does poor Nathan know that his mixed martial arts clashes with Kevin will come in handy.

One day his high school teacher, Mr. Miles (Roger Guenveur Smith of “American Gangster”), assigns Nathan to research a project involving missing persons. The catch is that Mr. Miles assigns Karen as Nathan's partner. Initially, they begin their project at Nathan’s house in his bedroom. They stumble onto a website with a juvenile photograph of a kid who is the dead ringer for Nathan. Nathan is troubled when he finds a shirt that corresponds with the one that the kid is wearing in the picture. Karen tries to argue that the shirt is merely similar to the one in the photo, until Nathan points out that the stain on the shoulder is identical. Nathan discusses the subject with his mother, Mara (Mario Bello of NBC-TV’s “Prime Suspect”), and she breaks down and confesses that neither Kevin nor she are his blood relations. No sooner has this cat slipped out of the bag than two plainclothes government agents invade the premises and gundown Kevin and Mara. Karen walks in while all this mayhem is transpiring, and Nathan struggles to protect her from these lethal louts. A dying assailant warns them about a bomb in the oven, and an obvious CGI explosion blows their house to smithereens and hurls our hero and heroine into a swimming pool. Later, Nathan catches a television news story about the explosion, and the newscaster reports that nobody died. Apparently, according to the authorities, nobody was at home during the explosion. Nathan calls 911 from a pay phone. Before he grasps what is happened, he finds himself talking to CIA agent Burton (Alfred Molina of “Spider-Man 3”) who wants to help him. Nathan and Karen do their best to dodge the CIA, but the company catches up with them after Nathan kills an assailant on an Amtrak train. Freshman scenarist Shawn Christensen raises the stakes even higher as a group of foreigners armed with sophisticated gear and exotic sniper rifles arrive as if on safari to locate him.

Sadly, the twists and turns in the Christensen screenplay won’t have you performing impossible contortions like a first-rate thriller would have you do. John Singleton makes this realistic but far-fetched thriller into a tolerable potboiler. Beyond that “Abduction” is not very abducting. There is a fight on an Amtrak that has been compared with the Sean Connery & Robert Shaw brawl on the Orient Express in “From Russia with Love.” There is no comparison. The finale at the Pittsburgh Pirates stadium is nothing special. Indeed, one villain calls it quits too easily while another is simply shot down in the street. “Abduction” is the first film that “Boyz n the Hood” director Singleton has made in six years. Singleton’s last movie “Four Brothers” was misfire remake of the John Wayne classic “The Sons of Katie Elder.” The way that Singleton is going, he may not make another movie is another six years. Taylor Lautner should be happy playing third-string in the “Trinity” franchise.