Film Review | Abduction

Twilight's werewolf boy Taylor Lautner keeps his T-shirt antics to a minimum in this bare-bones identity thriller, but Abduction still lacks enough oomph to captivate.

Taylor Lautner (left) and Lilly Collins are pursued by shady mafia and shadier Intelligence characters in this teen thriller.
Taylor Lautner (left) and Lilly Collins are pursued by shady mafia and shadier Intelligence characters in this teen thriller.

Abduction is a film made for youths by adults. Meaning that there seems to have been plenty of effort put into surveying the contemporary youth market for gadgets, music, trends (Twilight-craze being the chief one by virtue of its star) and even hairstyles… and yet, it all feels rather hollowed out, and only tangentially – accidentally – hip, and only in parts.

The well-worn storytelling path of orphans discovering a far more interesting line of biological parentage and being plunged into a world of danger and adventure is about as old as time itself (well, Star Wars at least…) and this teen action-thriller is remarkable only by virtue of being so thoroughly uninteresting, you’d think the filmmakers were playing by the numbers on purpose.

Twilight It-Boy Taylor Lautner (read: the werewolf kid) plays Nathan Harper – or does he? – a seemingly normal – abs and all – high school teenager, complete with attractive young parents (Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello) who boast a trendy minimalist apartment (rectangular white plates and all!) and even provide him with an equally attractive psychologist (Sigourney Weaver, probably wearing the same lab coat she had on during Avatar). You see, while Mr Harper Jr. appears to be an easygoing, ‘normal’ teen, this is just a façade that belies his anger issues.

But when he is assigned a high school project which partners him with his neighbour and long time crush Karen (Lilly Collins), he discovers far more deep-seated secrets. Ones that involve the truth about his parents, the CIA and the Serbian mafia.

The problem with Abduction is not its intricate, and often preposterous plot. That the sequence of events is stretched to breaking point is expected of such espionage-lite fare, and it can be a pleasure when it’s done right.

No, what plunges the film head-first into the toilet bowl of mediocrity (and pushes hard, insisting that it stay there) is its lack of any memorable details… and a set of performances so dull, you’d expect the actors to contribute their fee to charity (or Greece). God knows Lautner tries – but all his effort amounts to preening and grimacing… though luckily the T-shirt-stripping that has become his trademark in the Twilight saga is kept to a bare minimum. Collins gets a raw deal – her lack of any significant lines is borderline offensive, and she oscillates from being a mere soundboard for her not-quite-boyfriend, to a romantic foil that’s little more than a cardboard cut out.

More offensive still is Michael Nyqvist’s Nikola Kozlow. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star plays the superior to the aforementioned Serbian mafia hackers… and the Swedish actor strains across geographic boundaries. Supposedly playing a Russian, his dull-eyed delivery is more laughable than threatening, and it’s not helped by an accent that seems to alternate between James-Bond-villian ‘russkie’ and something resembling garbled Irish.

Really, it’s the adults that deliver the best moments. Weaver shows a glimmer of humanity in her relationship with our protagonist… and a friendly tussle between Lautner and Isaacs at the very beginning is charming enough to reel you in.

But soon after that, the film becomes the domain of shallow plot twists and shallower acting. This juvenile tripe could have done with some proper coaching, all things considered.

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