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Movie review: 'Abduction'

Taylor Lautner's shirtless torso may thrill a segment of the audience, but director John Singleton's listless film about a young man chasing down his past won't engage many others.

September 23, 2011|By Glenn Whipp, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins star in "Abduction."
Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins star in "Abduction." (Bruce Talamon / Lionsgate )

Not long into the so-so action thriller "Abduction," Lily Collins is living every teen girl's dream, hanging out in Taylor Lautner's bedroom. No … it's not like that. They're two high-school seniors, sitting on opposite ends of the bed while researching a class project on missing children. They're scrolling through pictures of kids on their laptops, guessing what the children might look like today.


For the Record, 7:26 a.m. Sept. 23: The headline on an earlier version of this online article incorrectly referred to Taylor Lautner as Tyler.

Landing on one boy sporting a strong jaw, Collins stammers, "Matt Damon meets … you!"

Aaaah … you don't say? So might that make "Abduction," the story of a physically gifted young man forced to go on the run because of a significant, unremembered event in the past, Lautner's "Bourne"-again baptism by fire into modern-day action filmmaking? And if the answer is that obvious, can the movie be worth seeing?

Team Jacob members will certainly think so, if only because Lautner's sensitive young stud in "Abduction" isn't far removed from the pining werewolf he plays in the "Twilight" movies. They both have anger issues, yes, but they also can be achingly sweet and vulnerable and protective — and shirtless, when appropriate. (And with Lautner, there never seems to be an inappropriate time.)

Early on, we do find Lautner's character, Nathan Harper, in that particular state of undress after he has a bit too much to drink at a high school kegger. When Nathan arrives home the next morning, his father (Jason Isaacs) is ready for him. "You want to drink like a man, you gotta fight like a man," he tells his son, proceeding to engage Nathan in a little mixed martial-arts brawl that goes well beyond your standard father-son roughhousing.

Nathan does have a reputation. He's seeing therapist Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) for insomnia, impulsivity and anger issues. Nathan tells her, "Sometimes I feel like a freak, like a stranger in my own life." He keeps having the same dream about helplessly watching a woman being violently attacked.

And then he and his platonic (but oh, how they gaze longingly at each other) pal Karen (Collins, daughter of Phil) click on that photo of the missing Lautner look-alike tyke and, well, let's just say Nathan and Karen never get around to finishing that class project.

First-time screenwriter Shawn Christensen tries to tap into the issues teenagers hold near and dear — self-discovery, alienation, hormones — and layer them into an espionage thriller. Unfortunately, Lautner's blindingly white teeth make more of an impression. What intrigue there is comes largely from the all-star elders surrounding our squinting hero — Weaver, Isaacs, Maria Bello playing Nathan's mom and Alfred Molina as a man trying to win Nathan's trust. (Bad sign: He's a grown-up.)

"Abduction" is just the third movie John Singleton has directed in the past decade, and it contains neither the passion nor the competence of his two previous genre efforts — "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Four Brothers." Although the project makes sense for Lautner as a brand repositioning, it's impossible to see why Singleton signed on for this particular job-for-hire unless he's trying to make a subversive case for Team Edward.

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