Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Fault of Abduction (2011) lie not with the star, but with its script, stunts.

Abduction
2011
105 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

A good movie can overcome a weak central performance (see - On Her Majesty's Secret Service), just as a sparkling central performance can make a mediocre movie feel like a great one (see - Iron Man).  But a poor story combined with a mediocre lead performance is a pretty toxic combination.  Thus we have Taylor Lautner's Abduction.  I had a token amount of hope for the picture because I like trashy thrillers, even ones that star actors I don't generally care for (see - Shooter).  But the movie is just-plain bad.  It's not bad because Taylor Lautner can't act, although this is surely not a convincing testament to his star power.  It is weak because it fails to excel in the areas that had little to do with whether or not its lead actor was up to the task.  John Singleton is saddled with a weak script and a shocking lack of big-scale action.

To say that the film is painfully unoriginal is not exactly an insult.  The Bourne Identity was not the first film to deal with an assassin who realizes that he doesn't want to kill people (IE - the plot of 50% of all direct-to-DVD action thrillers), and so Abduction being a somewhat derivative variation of the whole 'your life is a lie and now you're on the run from villains' template isn't that much of a problem.  So the story stinks, but John Singleton's would-be thriller completely botches the two things that would make this film worth-watching regardless.  While the film seems filled with notable actors, only Alfred Molina registers any real screen-time.  Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello play Lautner's would-be foster parents, so if you've seen the trailer you know they don't last long.  Isaacs does have a couple nice moments to play, including oddly enough the best action beat in the film, but Bello's best moment occurs once she's already dead (the film remembers to have Isaacs mourn the death of his wife).  Sigourney Weaver exists primarily for exposition, and she's barely around after the first act.  So the heavy lifting is left up to poor Alfred Molina, who is supposed to be an top-notch CIA operative even while his fellow agents get (bloodlessly) bumped off in shocking numbers.  With Isaacs and Bello dead and Weaver gone for the entire last half of the film, the film pretty much rests on the shoulders of Lautner and Lily Collins, as the token girlfriend/occasional hostage (her second-act imperilment is odd since she rescues herself but does not aid in the battle... it's purely so she can be threatened and then tied and gagged for bondage fans).  Lautner has the six-pack, and Collins is awfully attractive, but it's not enough.

So without a strong lead performance, a decent story, and a stable of character actors, the film could otherwise pass merit as an action film.  But, despite the sure hand of John Singleton, it comes up short in this area as well.  While the film is PG-13, and the body count is well into the double-digits (I counted nineteen, half enemy agents, half red-shirt CIA operatives), the action feels painfully slight and noticeably tame.  Oddly enough, the best action sequence in the film is a well-edited martial arts duel between Lautner and his adoptive father, as the father basically engages his son in a sparring match as punishment for some illicit partying.  The actual action, in terms of fights, chases, and what-not are quite flat and sparse.  The one trump card that Lautner brings to the table (other than his looks I suppose) is his genuine skill as a martial artist.  Why this film didn't actively feature his talents in the realm of action-movie combat, I cannot say.  Most of the fight scenes are painfully short and somewhat tightly-edited.  Lautner does have one genuine fight scene on a train, but it's quite short and decidedly not brutal. One can presume that the producers didn't want Taylor Lautner killing anyone for youth-centric reasons, and the film feels like a PG-rated action picture that happens to have a PG-13 by sheer weight of its arbitrary body count.  It's far too tame for action junkies, yet its pointless PG-13 precludes the very youngest audiences who might have flocked to a PG-rated action-adventure.

So without an interesting story, without clever dialogue (one potentially amusing line where a villain threatens to kill Nathan's Facebook friends is botched in the delivery), without credible lead performances, without a decent slate of grizzled character actors, and without the necessary thrills and action beats to make up for any of the above deficiencies, John Singleton's Abduction is a pretty bland across-the-board failure.  Worse yet, it fails to showcase the kind of skill-set that might allow Lautner to survive as an action star without the whole 'acting ability' issue.  It fails as drama, fails as an acting treat, and fails as an action picture.  Abduction surely could have survived Taylor Lautner in a leading role had it made up for it in even one of the above areas.  But because it does not, it merits no reason for existence.

Grade: C-                    

1 comment:

Lonelyreload said...

walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =D

Regards,
http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

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