If you know me, which some of you do, you know it is extremely rare that I dislike a movie. I can recognize its flaws and still enjoy it, still defend it, as I have done with many films and will continue to do, I'm sure, for a long time to come. But this week I saw a movie that is simply so incompetent, amateurish, laughable, and a slew of other disparaging words, that nothing can redeem it. That film is called Abduction.
I originally sought out seeing this film to write something on Taylor Lautner's rise as an action star and whether or not he succeeded in his first big outing. I was never planning on seeing the film otherwise; based on the trailer, it seemed to me like a potentially awesome film that would be ruined by Lautner's lack of acting ability. But what I ended up seeing was so beyond atrocious, I couldn't just sit idly by and ignore it.
Where do I even begin? From the opening line of "Yeah baby" to my pages and pages of notes reading phrases like "How would he know that?" and "That makes no sense." and "Why would you do that??!!?!" this film is, frankly, a colossal failure. Five minutes into it, you know you're in for 106 minutes of lame dialogue and underdeveloped characters. Ten minutes into the film and Lautner has already spent a good amount of time with his shirt off. Fifteen minutes into the film, the best scene has already happened, in which Jason Isaacs' Kevin trains Lautner's Nathan by essentially beating the crap out of him. It was a glimmer of hope that was quickly dashed away.
It's difficult to get into just how awful this movie is without revealing some key plot points, but trust me when I say that logic did not play a role in the script, filmmaking, or acting. There is no connective tissue between anything that happens. It feels like it was written by a 13-year-old who LOVES action movies but has no clue how to write one. So he tries and shows it to his mom and his mom says, "Aw, this is great, honey!" and so that 13-year-old calls Taylor Lautner's dad (Dan Lautner, a producer on Abduction) and is like, "My mom said this script is great so you should make it." So he did. No, this isn't the story of how the film got made, but it might as well be.
First, the plot. The story here, sure, makes enough sense as like, a log line. As one sentence. A sentence I can't say because it's all spoilers. But when it got fleshed out, everything went wrong. None of the reveals pack a punch or make much sense, and the biggest reveal of all is completely underwhelming and makes you feel like you've been along for this "ride" -- if one could even call it that -- for no actual reason. It feels unresolved, emotionless, and so absurd, I have to wonder if it was intentional as a secret way to undermine the action film as an institution and subvert Lautner's potential as an action star, because I see no other explanation for how something so comically illogical got greenlit.
The dialogue and exchanges between characters are even worse. So often it seemed like a character was saying something completely unprompted by what the other character just said to him. Like everyone was in his or her own movie making up their own "action movie" lines.
One of my favorite moments was when some very "important" exposition is thrown Nathan's way. And the next scene is Nathan explaining EXACTLY what we just heard, almost verbatim, to Lily Collins' Karen. Why? Why would you do that? Why would you have two scenes with the exact same exposition, one right after the other? THIS IS CALLED POOR SCREENWRITING. There is also a moment where we see Nathan and Karen run into the woods. Then follows what we will call Scene W. After Scene W, a bunch of characters are talking about how Nathan and Karen are in the woods. So please tell me why Scene W is necessary? Scene W features Nathan and Karen in the woods. Karen says, "Hang on, I have to catch my breath." So they stop running for about 30 seconds. She does not catch her breath, then they keep running. That was a scene. A whole scene. It was foreshadowing nothing, it was following up on nothing, it was just pointless. And I laughed out loud.
Moments like these happen pretty consistently for the entirety of the film. It was a never-ending barrage of things that didn't make sense, whether small and subtly incompetent or glaringly over-the-top examples of idiocy, it was incessant.
And poor Lily Collins. She was just so damn boring. She and Lautner had no chemistry (although their wannabe-porn-stars make out scene tries *really* hard to make you think they do), and nothing about her jumped out at me at all. I know people like her, so I have to assume it's the movie's fault, not her own. I don't believe Tarsem Singh would cast his Snow White with an actress who was this bland.
So what does work? Jason Isaacs is the best part of the movie. Easily. Unfortunately, the potential with his character is wasted. When the film ended, my moviegoing buddy and I discussed what changes could have made the film actually work, and we both thought it would involve Isaacs in a larger role. I kinda wish they made the movie we discussed instead of the one they did. It might have actually been interesting or had some modicum of dynamic.
Also -- and how is this for bizarre -- I saw this movie intending for Lautner to be the worst part of an otherwise awesome action movie. But no. The movie around him was terrible, and although he was pretty terrible for the most part as well, I gotta say that when he is fighting, I dig it. The kid has some serious martial arts skills, and the only times I enjoyed myself watching this film were during his all too few (seriously) action scenes. I would have been thrilled to see a third less nonsense attempting to be a movie and a third more pure action, stretching his boundaries as a fighter. Lautner is not a leading man, but he is a damn good martial artist.
It physically hurts me to talk about this movie, so I'm going to stop now. If you want to, you know, drink and go see a stupid movie and yell at the screen every time something doesn't make sense, this may be your preferred weekend viewing. If you like things that are good and value your time, STAY AWAY.