30 September 2011


Now that the Harry Potter series is over, how do we think its young stars will do in the wide world of film? Daniel Radcliffe seems to be doing fine, Emma Watson has a great career in modelling to fall back on, and I'm still lobbying hard for Rupert Grint to be the first ginger Doctor somewhere down the line. Tom Felton, who showed so much promise in Half-Blood Prince, already seems to have defaulted to making terrible music.

Elsewhere, the cast of Twilight won't find themselves at such a loose end until next November's Breaking Dawn- Part 2, which is just as well for Taylor Lautner, whose first not-Twilight vehicle turned out to be Abduction. Lautner is Nathan Harper, a fun-loving high-schooler who's subjected to martial arts training and pop-quiz beatings by his parents. When assigned a school project on missing children, Nathan discovers his own picture has been put on the Internet, and that his parents are not his own. It's not long before an assassin busts down his door, and chase Nathan across America for some crucial information about the CIA.

There's a single moment of such magnificently pitched silliness in Abduction that it would certainly have become a popular Internet meme, if only the rest of the film weren't so lifeless and forgettable. It comes as Nathan thumps the sense out of a henchman, who informs him that there's a bomb in his oven. Perplexed, Nathan goes and checks. Indeed, there is a bomb in the oven. His mild surprise is about all the excitement that the movie, or its audience, can muster for this thrilling revelation.

That this is the sole highlight of the film speaks very much for how misjudged it is as a whole. This is one of those films that deals in semiotics, so rushed as to leaving the audience to do all of the work. It's no spoiler to say that Nathan's un-parents, played by Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello, are killed shortly before the oven bomb revelation. This should have an emotional impact on Nathan- it's a significant moment. The signified effect, however, is never less apparent than on Lautner's face. Despite having the physical profile, Lautner is not a hugely capable actor, and on a Schwarzenegger barometer, that would cement him as an action star. But nowadays, it's just not enough.

As much as he grapples with depicting grief, it's in the earlier scenes that Lautner struggles most. Somehow the acts of having fun with his friends and harbouring a crush on an obnoxiously eyebrowed Lily Collins are beyond his capabilities. This film seems to have flopped because none of the male target audience seem willing to give Lautner his shot as an action star. I went into Abduction with an open mind, but while I don't think it's any good, I also wouldn't blame Lautner for its shortcomings.

That wouldn't explain how Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver and Michael Nyqvist are made to look like numpties too. I felt for Nyqvist in particular, having enjoyed him so much as Blomkvist in the Swedish version of the Millennium trilogy, because he's lumbered with an under-written villain role, with risible dialogue that shows up the fact that English is obviously not his first language. No, no, the problem lies with the script, and the general shoddiness of the production all around.

As mentioned, Shawn Christensen's dialogue is hackneyed, and the only kind of script in which "There's a bomb in the oven" might look at home, but I think it's much more the rushed feel of the film that makes it so inferior. The editing, and some of the shooting, is shoddy enough to make Abduction look like the work of an inexperienced director-for-hire, on a leaner budget than the film probably had. And worse, the director is actually John Singleton, who's experienced enough in directing action films that he really should be doing better. From how rushed it seems, I can only guess that Lionsgate made a grave miscalculation in thinking Lautner alone would be enough to sell it.

It's unfortunate that so much of Abduction rests on Lautner's broad shoulders, because when he buckles under the weight of a misguided script, poor production value and the film's general listlessness, it seems to put paid to a potential career in action movies, post-Twilight. Taylor Lautner is not solely to blame for how poorly this turned out, but perhaps it's so forgettable that audiences will be ready to give him another chance come November 2012. Even for a very obvious star vehicle picture, there's something lacking here. But I admit that the oven bomb moment gives us one of the funniest scenes of the year.

Abduction is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Abduction, why not share your comments below? I'm trying the Taylor Lautner workout, and I've thus far got one ab poking out. Here's hoping I can be in a movie just 1/8 as shitty as his, and keep my top on?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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