My PS3 loathed Abduction. Honestly, it did. After using the film’s closing credits to wipe away the tears and recompose myself into a presentable human state, I eagerly pressed the eject button on my console, an action which resulted in a loud jarring noise and the disc being spat – nay, upchucked – onto my tabletop. Bad wiring, I wondered? Nope. It just flat-out fucking hated this loud, nonsensical action/thriller from John Singleton, the hackpiece extraordinaire who interrupted his 6-year vacation to take Abduction‘s helm. His return to the cinema is a disastrous compendium of action movie clichés, given the ultimate scrubbing down by Matt Brunson‘s brilliant CLC review; “You look at the screen mainly because it beats staring at the auditorium walls.” This is gonna be fun…
Remember Agent Cody Banks (Zwart, 2003)? Well this is basically that, but boasting extraordinary pretensions of launching a Jason Bourne style franchise for its abtastic leading man, Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner. The material – penned by rockstar Shawn Christensen – is obviously designed to fashion a bona-fide action hero out of the tween audience’s lupine idol, and for him – if not the rest of us – the part is a dream come true. Clearly imagining himself as the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lautner (whose mastery of the English language about equals The Governator’s) throws himself into the role of Nathan, an introverted high-schooler who doesn’t feel comfortable in his own skin. It’s for this reason that he makes regular visits to a curiously unhelpful shrink (Sigourney Weaver) and can’t talk to the plot-handy girl next door (Lily Collins). After being beaten senseless by his father (Jason Isaacs) in an impromptu boxing bout, he’s soon surfing the net and unearthing shattering secrets about his life – basically that he’s adopted, and the people living downstairs are undercover CIA operatives. One (improbably huge) explosion later and our hero is on the run, dragging his porcelain doll of a love interest closely behind.
The screenplay could win a Golden Globe if it were a little more self-aware, delivering first-rate honkers like this exchange, arriving after our leads share a particularly dispassionate kiss; “Wow, that was so much better than middle school.” “That’s because I know what I’m doing now.” Fact is, nobody has any clue what they’re doing in this ear-splitting lobotomy of a movie, in which Michael Nyqvist plays a non-specific Euro villain on the warpath to find some encrypted codes. Why? What do they reveal? The biggest problem here is that Singleton has taken a cockamamie plot – which could actually work as B-grade fluff in the hands of, say, John McTiernan – and imagined himself making something akin to one of Pakula’s paranoid parables, marked by plodding conspiracy theories and enigmatic phone calls from gravel-throated spies (Dermot Mulroney, classing up a thankless cameo). The moody lighting, low-level shot structure, quick-zooms and surveillance fetishization are all elements of a classic 70’s thriller, but paired along with the turgid rock score, rapid-fire editing, 12A certificate and GQ-friendly stars, we’re left with a hodgepodge flip-book of two incompatible decades.
Singleton has experience within the action genre, having previously helmed 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) and Four Brothers(2005), but his set-pieces here lack any feeling or vitality; choreographed around a toned, flexible 19-year-old, they should have some degree of élan, but they instead feel stodgy and forced. Lautner’s babyfaced features certainly don’t sell him as a nails-hard action hero, but his buff torso also ensures that we never buy him as the ordinary teenage schlub, meaning that this may be the first star vehicle in history to fail for the casting of its star. The guy can’t act, plain and simple, but he also seems to be struggling with the concept of dialogue – each flapping of the mouth is a monumental stretch for this buff thespian, and he walks around the various locations with a constant look of surprise. Remember the “oooh, claw” aliens in the Toy Story films? That’s his reaction to everything. Collins is equally implausible, contractually obliged to be stagnant and pretty, but not once indicate that she could be a genuine human being. The screenplay underserves her, yes, but the actress couldn’t emote to save her life, and we never believe in her peril.
Even those expecting a stripped-down Friday night thriller will be disappointed. If you have to see it, do so with friends, and after 10 beers. You’ll need to self-flagellate for a week to rinse yourself of the vapid machinations of this dull, aggressively stupid thriller, which is one of the worst in recent years.
Image and sound are fine, and the extras are suitably underwhelming, comprising a trilogy of dull featurettes and a decent gag reel entitled Pulled Punches, which could have also been the film’s title.
Abduction is out on DVD & blu-ray 13th February 2012.
Director: John Singleton
Writer: Shawn Christensen
Stars: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina
Runtime 106 min