Release Date: September 22
I’m not sure even Taylor Lautner’s biceps are big enough to lift this film above the laughs it’s likely to receive from audiences. Abduction is a plot so crammed with clichés that the very teens it’s supposed to appeal to may want to distance themselves from such stupidity – unless of course those biceps get in their way which, let’s face it, is exactly what the producers are hoping for.
Lautner plays Nathan, a teenager who realises his parents are not who they say they are when he discovers a baby photo of himself on a missing persons’ web site. His suspicions uncover a world of international espionage and put him in the cross-hairs of gun-toting Serbs. Dragged into this murderous maelstrom is his innocent school friend Karen (Lily Collins), who harbours a secret crush on her mysterious neighbour. After fighting his way through numerous traps, Nathan must finally battle his distrust of his real father, a man he has never met.
Honestly, I had to work to make this plot sound as engaging as I have. Abduction is a teen version of The Bourne Identity waiting for a plot twist that never arrives. But I don’t think we should blame Lautner. Matt Damon couldn’t have made anything from his lines. I think the friend I saw the preview with put it best when he wondered if writer Shawn Christensen had been a teenager when he penned the script. “If I was a 15 years old I’d write a movie like that too: where my house is blown up and I’m being hunted by the CIA and all the girls love me – all while I’m busy being awesome.”
Now Christensen might just have been zeroing in on his market but he’s piled up so many verbal and visual clichés by the end of the film that they just suffocate the drama. Bad guys are foreign and needlessly violent; black kids know everything about evading the law; no one can be trusted, not even the government! Abduction even leans heavily on ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’ style voices in Nathan’s head to lead the audience through his thoughts. And once you strip away the angst-ridden looks, all that’s left is the sort of unintended comedy that accompanies smitten Karen’s pronouncement:
“Ten days ago we were just a couple of high school kids. That seems like a life time ago.”
– as she gazes longingly into Nathan’s eyes. It was a melodramatic moment that earned hoots of laughter.
Less funny is Abduction’s attitude to parents. There isn’t a decent adult role model in the entire film. Nathan’s stand-in mother has lied to him for his entire life and his fake father is a vicious thug who hammers him during a disturbing ‘training’ session so he’ll be stronger. Karen’s parents are off holidaying in Italy and Nathan’s real father turns out to be a faceless hitman who can only apologise for ‘never being there’. Beyond Lautner’s physique, the film’s key plan for gathering an audience is affirming the teenage myth that parents really don’t understand, and they certainly don’t deserve respect.
If there’s one saving grace it’s Abduction’s attitude towards responsibility. Nathan repeat’s his fake mother’s axiom that “Trust needs to be earned.” Though this seems to be just another device for this angry teen to hurl at his father, the principle is sound enough for the real world. In a film devoid of even the mention of God, you can find refractions of his faithful character. The people that you can trust are those who have shown themselves to be trustworthy time and time again. This is in fact why we trust God when He says He will one day repay all wrongs and save those who rely on Him: because He’s kept every other promise to date. But I’m afraid that’s a lesson lost on Abduction, where the truth has also gone missing.