Abduction was supposed to be Taylor Lautner’s coming out party as a leading man. Post-New Moon (where his part was more than a brief walk-on), he got a lot of heat as the third member of Twilight’s love triangle, and studios and projects were being thrown at him. Sure, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart couldn’t bring the twi-hards in to their work outside of Forks, but perhaps Lautner was different. And in Abduction he proves how he really is different from those two: he can’t act. Abduction misfired at the box office, and has hurt Lautner’s post-Twilight chances, which is probably for the best. Jason Isaacs, Mario Bello, Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina and Michael Nyqvist co-star in this John Singleton film, and our review of Abduction follows after the jump.
Lautner plays Nathan, who starts the film going to a party and getting drunk with his friends after driving up doing the ship’s mast routine from Death Proof. Lautner and his friends seem to think partying and drinking involves hooting a lot – perhaps the film was meant to be targeted at his pre-teen fanbase so they didn’t want to show anything that resembled debauchery. But it sets up immediately that there are problems with the movie. Collins plays Karen, his next door neighbor who he’s been crushing on for years. She’s having tension with her new boyfriend, but they break up conveniently. When Nathan gets home from the party his father (Isaacs) wants to box him, which is supposed to set up that Nathan is really strong and agile, and that his parents are weird. Bello plays his mom, and she’s the “good cop” of the two.
At school, Nathan is assigned to a project with Karen, and somehow it leads them to look at websites for missing children. One of them looks a lot like Nathan, and he can find the shirt the child’s wearing in the picture in his belongings. He’s also been having dreams that revolve around kidnapping so he talks to his shrink (Weaver). He makes a call to the hotline number, which was a fake and which sends killers to his house. It’s revealed that the CIA – headed up by Burton (Alfred Molina) – and evil foreign agents (headed up by Nyqvist) are after him because of his real father.
It should be noted that in a film titled Abduction, no actual abducting takes place. Such is this movie. As a performer, Lautner is one of the best action stars in a while… in the sense that he often does his own stunts, and he’s very competent physically. If Abduction has any saving graces, one is that Lautner does appear to be doing a lot of stunt work. But as an actor, there’s something about Lautner that is just terribly off. Few actors can put their hand to their chin to think and come off as phony, but Lautner makes small gestures seem inauthentic. Perhaps it’s the nature of his fame, but it’s going to take a real good director to use him for what he’s best at. Stoic violence. He could go into that school of Eastwood or Alain Delon-style blank killers, but even then he might futz it. He just doesn’t have the right skill-set for performance: When he complains that his father wants him to fight hungover you don’t buy that he’s hungover or a really anything. He just gets across an annoyance that doesn’t create empathy. And perhaps some of that is genetic – Lautner doesn’t have a classically “open” face, but whenever he tries to act, he generally has two default settings: cocky or annoyed.
Which may go well with the story as he has to be incapable of mourning his parents as he’s on the run moments after they’re dispatched, and then a couple hours later is making out with Lily Collins. But absurdity isn’t so much a problem in action movies if you have characters to latch on to, and though Collins may be a little better performer than Lautner – it’s hard to tell because she has so little to work against. It’s nice that director Singleton put Lautner with so many other talented performers, but they can’t hide Lautner’s stink. And Singleton directs it with a generic proficiency that has defines the last decade and change of his career.
Perhaps it’s timing – Lautner isn’t yet old enough to be credible in the sorts of roles Arnold Schwarzenegger used to propel himself into fame, and he needs to lose just enough of the boyish elements of his looks to come across as an adult, something that may just never happen. I think he would be fine doing the sorts of films that made Steven Seagal or Jean Claude Van Damme relatively successful. But that’s his weight class, and this comes across more like Jeff Speakman in The Perfect Weapon – DOA.
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 7.1 surround. The film also comes with a digital copy. The picture and sound quality is excellent. You can watch the film with the Abduction application running, which incorporates three of the featurettes into the film. It has a little more behind the scenes footage and interviews than the pieces as they exist separately, but it presents you with the option of watching footage while the movie plays in the background, or just watching them by themselves. Why would you want to watch the movie intercut with featurettes? Do not understand. Those three featurettes are “Abduction Chronicle” (18 min.), which has Lautner walks the viewer through the shooting of the film, “Initiation of an Action Hero” (12 min) which gives Lautner credit for doing much of his own stunts, while “The Fight for Truth” (12 min.) is the more general making of. “Pulled Punches” (4 min.) is the film’s gag reel, and the disc is rounded out by bonus trailers.