Oh yes, it has come to this.

Believe it or not (and I almost don’t want to), Abduction is a fairly solid movie. Especially if you’re a young lady with a fetish for the above gentleman. If you’re not, what you basically need to know about this movie is that it’s kind of a high school Bourne thing with some competent action, a few cheesy romantic bits, and so on. What mostly keeps the movie from being a total yawn is that it, like the other more successful films this year, takes its time developing the characters and their lives so that when the movie flips the chase/action switch, no emotional impact is sacrificed to those evil Gods who demand that story, character, and so on are traded in for MOMENTUM!!! EXCITEMENT!!! BADLY CUT AND FREQUENT ACTION SCENES!!!

I was relieved that Abduction stuck pretty close to the ground in terms of its action, if not its plot. Sure, the plot is a bit on the cartoonish side but it’s not bad and it plays pretty well with a familiar through-line: kid feels different, has issues, finds out about a family secret, family secret launches him on a journey of danger and discovery. In this case, Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner)’s life is a carefully crafted fabrication meant to protect him from people who want to use him as leverage in a high-level international spy game.

Of course, there’s a love interest!

While we can all admit that the plot is ludicrous, it isn’t offensively so. One of the problems, though, is the movie’s sense of geography. Nathan and his neighbor/crush Karen Murphy (Lily Collins) seem to flit between different Northeast cities like gnats and not much credence is paid to how long it takes, they seem to end up being wherever they need to be while the movie tosses out the names of towns and States willy-nilly. I don’t know how they didn’t get this right since other espionage-type movies seem to create a sense of rapid movement over much bigger distances with relative ease (Bourne for example… and get used to it because I’ll be mentioning those movies a lot). Anyway, you’ll be kinda lost between Virginia and the film’s climax in Pittsburgh but this doesn’t amount to much of a real problem, just a bit of carelessness in the script.

A lot of the credit for that Abduction isn’t a laughable mess goes to John Singleton who, since Boys in the Hood, has become something of a reliable blue collar action director. He also wisely uses some familiar (but not too familiar) faces that are able to craft relatively memorable characters out of archetypes we’ve seen 1000 times before.  Jason Isaacs is quite good, for example, as Kevin Harper (Nathan’s dad). Their little sparring scene is some pretty good work from both actors and does a lot to sell what kind of father-son relationship they have. Maria Bello, as Nathan’s mom, gets a nice emotional scene with Lautner and a solid fight but other than not much to do. Alfred Molina is kind of wasted, unfortunately, as he is a great scenery-chewer that is playing a fairly straightforward and bland role here. If you’re gonna get a guy like Molina, give him something a bit crazier to do. Sigourney Weaver is reliable, as are all these other actors, but similarly given little to do. She gets one or two not-bad lines but almost feels like a character we’d get more out of in a sequel. Which isn’t all that odd considering that Abduction is definitely a movie with sequel potential, though it does have a solid ending and so avoids the sequel-begging franchise bullshit I truly expected from it.

The cast of Serbian baddies do their job just fine with the highlights going to the spectacles guy from the train (yeah, I know… real descriptive) and the lead baddie, Kazlow (Michael Nyqvist), gets to shine in his last few scenes at the Pittsburgh Stealers stadium. His quip about baseball and popcorn is genuinely funny and the segue into a friendly but menacing explanation of certain interesting details about Nathan’s roots goes a long way to fixing the stock villain shit that the movie, up to that point, settles for.

Lily Collins is way hotter than Kristen Stewart and has personality to boot.

So now with the core stuff out of the way, we can take some time to talk about Taylor Lautner. Beyond being the masturbait for all our girlfriends, sisters, and probably aunts and moms too, Lautner is a fresh-faced and brick shithouse-manufactured actor with a real future in action flicks. I hope he is smart enough to choose more roles that coast on the emotional side (there is no heavier lifting than anything he’s done in the Twilight movies here but that isn’t necessarily a problem) while giving him the opportunity to use his physicality and action ability to his benefit. Of course, it’ll be nice to see if he turns into a real actor someday but for now this is a minor example of what he should be doing.

Thankfully, Nathan is not Jacob. I’ve seen the Twighlight movies (my best friend is a girl and I’ve always been morbidly curious about that franchise) and while I prefer Lautner to Robert Pattinson in terms of likability and screen presence, Lautner is not as tuned of an actor (yet?) and his character really doesn’t do him any favors. Jacob is a mopey bitch who growls and sulks and growls some more in Lautner’s nasally schoolboy voice. Nathan Harper is a character who is allowed to have fun. He’s got a bit of fratboy in him, and the opening parts of Abduction are about showing that this a kid having a fairly good, easy, and enjoyable life. Apart from some anger issues and bad dreams brought on by childhood trauma (which, you know, is fairly obvious shit that gets dealt with as such).

There’s also that Lautner simply looks good doing this kind of stuff. Because he doesn’t have a douchey disposition and comes across as a nice, slightly awkward guy pretty much no matter what (so far), he is harder to dislike for being a teen heartthrob than the usual pretentious idiots. That makes it hard to go out of my way to knock him. I mean, I get that Abduction isn’t a movie for me. It’s a fairly targeted sort of thing and I am not that target. I do believe in judging everything by its own lights and if this had been an outright bad movie you’d bet that I wouldn’t be talking about it like I am. If you need a point of comparison, Abduction is really kinda like Disturbia. If that was the junior version of Rear Window and Shia Labeouf was the annoying teen sensation of that bygone (what, 5 years ago?) era, then like I have said Abduction is the junior version of The Bourne Identity.

Zomg, marshes!

I think the best way for me to apologize for that shirtless Taylor Lautner shot is to talk about some meta shit in this movie. The meta shit is fun. Here goes:

Taylor Lautner has said that Matt Damon is one of his actorly heroes. How do I know that? Galaxy Cinemas pre-movie shows. That’s how I know pretty much everything I shouldn’t. Lautner also looks like Matt Damon more than a bit. The movie goes out of its way to mention this in one scene as Nathan and Karen are looking at some pictures for a school project and stumble across the one that causes everything else that happens to them. Then there’s that Abduction‘s most obvious recent inspiration is the Bourne trilogy which stars Matt Damon.

I hope Matt Damon is hanging out somewhere, aware of all this, and shaking his head with a big goofy grin. I hope he buys Taylor Lautner a box of fucking dingdongs and they become best friends.

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