From the Archives: “Abduction”

March 30, 2012

This week, the wags at How Did This Get Made took on 2011’s Abduction. As with 88 Minutes, I got there first. Here is a repost of my Abduction review from Sept. 26, 2011. Digitally remastered.

Twenty years ago, John Singleton made his first feature film, Boys in the Hood, which earned him two Academy Award nominations. This year, he released Abduction, a brain-dead Bourne Identity rip-off that exists solely to showcase Taylor Lautner’s abs at the expense of intelligence, logic, coherence, and even basic filmmaking competence. I hope the money he made off this flick bought him a nice boat or a nice enough bender that when he finally comes to in a pool of his own sick he has no memory whatsoever of this film. Lord knows my attempts didn’t work.

In Abduction, Taylor Lautner plays Nathan Price a seemingly normal, if absurdly cut, and unnecessarily glowering, high school teenager living in suburban Pittsburgh. One day, while researching missing children for a sociology project that has partnered him up the object of his childhood crush, Karen (Lily Collins, who may have actually been in a coma during all her scenes), he discovers a childhood photo of himself on a web site for missing children. Weird, right? Yeah, then assassins bust into his house and kill his parents (Maria Bello at her hellaMILFtastic best, and Jason Isaacs). And then they blow it up for good measure.

In one scene he unhinges his jaw and swallows one of his co-stars.

So, Nathan goes on the run with Karen, trying to outwit the killers and the CIA. Why the CIA, you ask? I dunno. Neither does the CIA. As a matter of fact, the agent in charge of finding him (Alfred Molina) even has a line in which he basically asks, “Yo dumbass, why are you running from us? We’re not the ones shooting at you?” It’s a bad sign when your movie points out how dumb your main character is.  

That's it, Taylor, concentrate real hard...the bunny runs around the tree...

But Nathan has a guardian angel in his therapist (Sigourney Weaver), who is a former CIA agent herself assigned to protect him. She mostly uses balloons for this. Yeah, balloons fix everything.

See, it turns out that Nathan’s real father is a freelance operative the CIA sometimes used, and, after his wife was murdered, the CIA placed Nathan with two CIA agents to raise him. Because, apparently, in the ‘90s the CIA had a foster-child program or something. Anyway, now his father has stolen a list of dirty CIA agents from a Eurotrash bad guy, who is hunting Nathan in order to force his father to give back the list. I know, I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either. Really, the story is just a means to keep Lautner running around and taking his shirt off.

Guess that "Aliens" money had to run out sometime, huh?

At this point, I should point out that Lautner and Collins are horrible actors. You probably knew this already, but when you’re saddled with these people for 100 minutes, their sheer badness becomes almost a force of nature, like a typhoon of blinding white teeth, blank stares, and furrowed brows. As a matter of fact, Lautner’s default mode appears to be “Neanderthal contemplating an iPod.” Which is actually preferable to his acting range, which stretches from his “I’m-so-gonna-rape-the-shit-out-of-you-in-my-dorm-room” leer to a more serious “I’m-gonna-rape-the-shit-out-of-you-in-the-alley” glower. Seriously, Karen has a reason to look panicked when Lautner asks his mom to leave them alone in his room.

The look that says "I'm not sure where yet, but I'm so gonna rape the shit out you someplace..."

But there’s a whole lot more wrong with this movie. Let’s run it down:

* Lautner’s opening lines of dialogue: “Yeah! Whoooooo! Whoa! Yeah! Whoooo!”

* A bad guy reports in, “I’m in a train just south of the city. We just pulled out of the Cincinnati station.” Wait, what? You were in Pittsburgh!

* More choice dialogue: “I’m not dying here. There’s a bomb in the oven.” Wait, huh? If you didn’t want to die here, why did you put a bomb in the oven?

So...do the eyebrows provide insulation or allow you to fly or what?

* When Nathan meets the bad guy in a ballpark, he has a gun hidden under the seat. Okay, how did his buddy get that into the stadium? And how long did that gun stay there without being noticed?

* When Nathan calls 911 from a payphone hospital, the call automatically gets routed to the CIA. So…how could that have happened? I mean, do all payphones work that way? Damn, the NSA has been busy.

* In one wholly inexplicable scene Lautner comes home to find Isaacs pounding on the lawn mower with a big claw-hammer. What kind of lawn mower maintenance requires beating on it with a hammer?

* When the CIA catches up to Nathan, they debrief him in a diner, while agents wait out front with shotguns. Subtle, guys. Very low-key.

This scene features only slightly less chemistry than exists in a bottle of water...

* When the assassins attack the CIA, the agents cunningly lure them into an ambush by playing dead. They lay on the ground with their eyes closed, you know, like kids do when they play cops and robbers, but actual corpses do not.

* Holy crap, Sigourney Weaver looks ancient! When did she get so old? I saw Paul and she didn’t look like this.

* The actual CIA headquarters is shown in an establishing shot. It’s a massive complex secluded in the woods of Northern Virginia. When we cut to Alfred Molina inside of it, he’s standing in front of a window that looks out on an alley, a busy street, a hardware store—basically a view that could not possibly exist.

* So, the CIA just decided to place a kid with two agents who get to pretend to be his parents for 18 years? Is this really the best use of our intelligence budget? And how did they get assigned to this mission? Jason Isaacs really won big in that lottery.

* During one of many, many, many Internet-searching scenes, we get a tight close-up on Lautner’s squinting eyes. Then a tight close-up on his buddy’s squinting eyes. Then back to Lautner’s squinting eyes. Then his buddy’s. It’s like the showdown from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Except there’s no showdown.

Just keep staring...and squinting...

* And then there’s Singleton, who, it should be noted, was nominated for an Oscar for his first film. Dunno what happened in the intervening years, but this film looks like it was directed by a drunk monkey.

* Several shots hold longer than the actors seem to expect, and they end up looking off camera with a quizzical look on their faces as if to say, “Um, are we done here?’

* In one scene Lautner looks in his friend’s locker and remarks, “What’s up dude? Are you joining a militia?” But the camera never changes to position to show us what Lautner saw. Oh well, it’s not like it’s a visual medium or anything.

* In another scene a car explodes, but Singleton edits the scenes leading up to it so poorly, you’re left unsure who it was that blew up.

So, that’s Abduction. I should also mention that at no point is anyone actually abducted.

"I'm so fucking awesome, I feel like raping the shit out somebody!"

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