Movie Review: Abduction (2011)

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A quick spoiler for those of you considering putting down your hard earned money on Abduction: Nobody in it gets abducted. Guns are fired, people are murdered, others are beaten up, and spies from the CIA battle a rogue Russian black-ops agent looking to regain some stolen files, but the only people who get kidnapped here are Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver and Michael Nyqvist, who were apparently blindfolded and shoved into a van headed to Pittsburgh. There, they were forced, likely at gunpoint, to recite 20-years worth of teen action movie cliches as Taylor Lautner smiled or grimaced at them, depending on the scenario.

There happen to be two scenarios. In the first, Nathan (Lautner), is a typical high school kid. He crushes on the girl next door (Lily Collins), gets wasted at a party, gets busted by his dad and, like your normal American high school kid, is beaten up by him in the backyard of their fantastic mansion. Lautner is all smiles here, other than when he’s about to deck his crush’s boyfriend or when he’s at therapy, where his shrink (Weaver) leads him by the hand through some angsty boilerplate. Despite the fun he has playing beer pong and riding his motorcycle, he feels weird, like he doesn’t belong at the school or with his family…a stranger in his own skin.

If that’s not familiar enough, there’s scenario two, where Lautner discovers that his parents aren’t his parents, that he’s been trained by world-class martial artists, and that he has a Russian hit squad coming after him for unknown reasons. He finds this out because, conveniently, he was assigned a paper on missing persons, and a missing persons site had some software that aged an old baby photo of his into a shockingly accurate future-him. The girl he’s crushing on, Karen, immediately jumps to the most alarmist conclusion: “Like, ohmigod Nathan, your parent’s totally aren’t your parents! They, like, abducted you or something!”

Only they didn’t abduct him, and they’re soon shot dead by the Russians. The CIA gets involved, and Nathan and Karen run from both groups, traveling in teen-friendly vehicles like 2011 BMWs and Amtrak trains as CIA man Burton (Molina) and the rogue Kozlow (Nyqvist) chase him down. The rest of the movie consists of standard chase scenes, punctuated briefly by bits of dialog so awkward, Sir Laurence Olivier would struggle in lending them gravitas.

“I’m not dying here,” A man says, trying to fend off Lautner’s blows. “I’ll tell you everything you need to know. There’s a bomb in the oven.”

And then Lautner goes to the oven, discovers that there is indeed a bomb in it (a decidedly old-school looking one that must have been placed and set magically), and manages to drag his panic-stricken future girlfriend to safety, even though the digital readout is at a comically short seven seconds. This, of course, means that the man who swore he wasn’t dying there dies, which would be sad were he not inept at his job. Later, in recounting the day’s tragedy, Lautner grimaces and deadpans “I just saw my parents get murdered in front of my eyes.”

And that’s just it…his parents did get murdered, right in front of his eyes even, and his loss just flat does not register. Yes, I understand that he’s an “action hero” and I get that he’s got “rage issues.” But rage is an emotion, and it’s the one action heroes need. First Blood, for example, would be nothing without Stallone breaking down and crying into Richard Crenna’s arms at the end of the movie, and half of Schwarzenegger‘s best stuff would similarly be wasted were he not enraged that somebody killed/kidnapped/threatened his wife/child/Christmas cookies. Neither Schwarzenegger or Stallone were particularly known for pathos, but, bulletproof though they were, they reacted to danger as if it were dangerous. Here, in an empty PNC Park, Lautner puts his arm around his girl and cracks wise about how exciting their first date was, despite missing the Pirates game.

Yeah bro, but your parents are still dead. Maybe you ought to work through those issues before sliding into second base.

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Abduction. Directed by John Singletary. With Taylor Lautner (Nathan), Lily Collins (Karen), Alfred Molina (Agt. Burton), Michael Nyqvist (Koslow), and Sigourney Weaver (Dr. Bennett). Released September 23, 2011, by Lionsgate.

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