Abduction U/A; Action thriller Dir: John Singleton Cast: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Michael Nyqvist, Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver Rating: **
What the hell are fine actors like Alfred Molina and Jason Isaacs doing in this underdone and often cringe-worthy thriller presumably aimed at Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew readers?
The answer to that question is one Taylor Lautner's adoring fan-base wouldn't bother dignifying with an answer. After all, the teenage girls who comprise the legions of Twilight-lovers across the world don't care about Lautner's histrionics. To paraphrase Renton from Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, who needs acting skills when you've got those forearms?
Lautner, who plays a 19-year-old boy named Nathan whose world comes crashing down when he finds out his parents aren't his biological ones, chooses to survey everything around him with a single, one-note expression. This is somewhere between a squint and a frown -- those who've watched any of the Twilight movies will recognise it as the look Jacob gives Edward and Bella when they're together -- and this is all Nathan does when he isn't escaping from one situation to another with best friend/obvious hook-up Karen (Collins).
As it turns out, Nathan's 'parents', Kevin (Isaacs) and Mara (Bello), were protecting Nathan all their lives from unseen dangers. A friendly Dr Bennett (Weaver, in a thankless role) is Nathan's therapist, but she and his parents are friends with his real father, Martin, a lethal Black-ops field agent with too many enemies. After his cover gets blown, Nathan and Karen spend their time escaping from Serbian terrorists and the CIA alike. For the benefit of Team Jac...err...Team Nathan, there are sundry close-up shots of his smooth angular face and perfectly-shaped eyebrows.
To be fair, the first act about Nathan finding out his true identity is done with a surprising sense of economy. There's no unnecessary drama, no overtly melodramatic confrontation (Bello pulls off that scene single-handedly thanks to her remarkable restraint) and, mercifully, no slow-motion montages.
However, aside from the lousy, pockmarked script from Shawn Christensen, which features dialogue that could've been copy-pasted from any of the Twilight films, it is Singleton's direction that unravels this chase-thriller.
The basic scenario, of a teenage boy who suddenly finds himself without a home, parents or an identity, is rife with possibilities. Instead, he focuses on turning Nathan into a vengeful Jason Bourne-ish character while never convincing us that he has managed to deal with his grief in a manner befitting his character.
On second thought, given Lautner and Collins' limited acting ability, this may actually have been the only decision to take. All in all, Abduction is a calculated misstep. That unbearably cheesy ending, the final nail in this movie's coffin, is proof that this movie was made solely to capitalise on Lautner's star power.