The difference between Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner can seemingly be boiled down into one thing after watching Abduction. Lautner was always the weakest of the bunch in terms of being a skilled actor but his choice of projects never lent itself a high standard by which you could accurately judge his talents. If Abduction is any clue as to his overall talents, it’s that they aren’t that much higher than what he’s already shown.
Stewart and Pattinson are being positioned to become skilled actors who once were in a major franchise in their younger days. Twenty years from now they’ll both make fun of their Twilight era fame from the vantage point that skilled actors who did bad studio pictures that were overwhelmingly successful can. Lautner, on the other hand, is being poised to be something else: the next era’s Tom Cruise. That’s the only reason why Abduction seems to exist: to help turn him from “Taylor Lautner: The Twilight Werewolf” into “Taylor Lautner: Next Big Movie Star.”
But here’s the problem: he doesn’t have the talent or charisma a young Cruise did, nor does he have the sort of vehicle in Abduction that a young Cruise had in Top Gun.
Nathan (Lautner) seemingly has a normal suburban life. A top amateur wrestler who is popular and whatnot, he’s always had a feeling that his life isn’t his own. When he discovers his picture on a missing children website, his parents (Maria Bello, Jason Isaacs) end up dead to a first rate wetwork team. On the run with the only person he can trust, the girl next door (Lily Collins), he has an unlikely ally in a special agent undercover as a therapist (Sigourney Weaver) as the two teens go on the run from a rogue spymaster (Alfred Molina) and a variety of henchmen led by Millenium trilogy star Michael Nyqist. It all culminates in Pittsburgh in a bullet riddled confrontation at Three Rivers Stadium.
And it winds up being an embarrassing debut for Lautner, who shows that Twilight isn’t an anomaly when it comes to his overall acting skills. He’s a pretty face, and has a presence on the screen, but doesn’t have the acting chops to compliment it. He’s stilted and wooden, even for the action genre, and it becomes more laughable than anything else as the film progresses. When Twilight ends in a little over a year from now Lautner isn’t showing that he has anything beyond name recognition going for him as an actor. It’s either that or he hasn’t yet had a director demand more out of him, which you could argue is the case in this film.
One actually feels bad for John Singleton, in a true “director for hire” role for another time in his career. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the director was hailed as the next big thing coming on the heels of Boyz n the Hood but that was 20 years ago. Singleton has done schlocky action films before, most notoriously 2 Fast 2 Furious and Shaft, and manages to sink to a newer low with this film. There’s no real effort to do anything overly dramatic or engaging with the story; Singleton has been able to get interesting performances before and does little with a fairly talented cast. This is standard story-telling and for someone with a reputation like Singleton’s its getting harder and harder justify his opening assault on the crime genre in 1991 as anything more than a fluke in an otherwise uneventful career.
The film itself is perversely designed around Lautner to showcase his talents as a future action star. One can see the type of film Shawn Christensen imagined when he wrote the film; this ought to be something akin to his own Above the Law or Commando, an introduction to a new action star. This isn’t meant as anything more than cheesy fun but it fails to even accomplish that; the one thing Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger both showed in those films was the ability to rise above the material with unique charm and charisma that helped to hide any discernibly strong acting chops. Lautner can’t do that, at a minimum, and Abduction hopefully will be kidnapped out of theatres and into DVD bargain bins everywhere soon.
Director: John Singleton
Notable Cast: Taylor Lautner, Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina
Writer(s): Shawn Christensen