Taylor Lautner sure can act, you can tell by his abs. It is the most gifted part of him and, like fellow sophisticate, The Situation, he has made it his calling card. But in his new movie, “Abduction,” the only ab is in the title. A teenage take on “The Bourne Identity,” no matter how low your expectations for “Abduction,” they’re probably not low enough.

Image courtesy Lionsgate

 

Imagine coming across an old photo of a missing child and realizing that child is you. That’s what happens to Nathan Price (Lautner) when he discovers that the mom and dad he grew up with aren’t really his parents. Every cloud has a silver lining and in this case his guardians turn out to be a CIA team raising Nathan as a junior asset.

It doesn’t really matter cause there’s no going home anyway, not after the poor kid discovers he is carrying an encrypted list of double agents prized by spies and criminals alike. Pretty soon he and girl next door, Karen (Lily Collins) find themselves on the run from not just the company but a murderous Russian crime boss too.

Taylor pilots an Aprilia Shiver 750 - Image courtesy Lionsgate

No one ever accused John Singleton of being an actor’s director, and that holds true for “Abduction,” but the veteran manages some compelling camera moves and kinetic editing to keep the action rolling. Having directed “2 Fast 2 Furious” Singleton knows how to put a car chase together and his climactic confrontation in Three Rivers Stadium is fast and lean with a nifty slide down the roof of an outdoor escalator.

Taylor Lautner seems like a nice guy trying his darndest to carry a movie. But sadly his darndest just isn’t good enough. His limited repertoire includes three expressions: smiling, not smiling and glowering. Not since Ice Cube have audiences been treated to such dynamic range.

Running on set with the director - Image courtesy Lionsgate

The filmmakers attempt to bolster the middle by surrounding Lautner with a formidable supporting cast including Sigourney Weaver as his shrink, Alfred Molina as CIA chief Burton, along with Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello as his parents. You might think this would help matters but instead it’s just sad to see so many talented actors slumming in a movie like “Abduction.”

Maria Bello tease Taylor Lautner during a set break - Image courtesy Lionsgate

Weaver worked on the film for only a week; Bello and Isaacs probably about the same. That leaves poor Alfred Molina in a key supporting part, gamely trying to lend integrity to the proceedings. But no one, and I mean no one, can overcome neophyte screenwriter Shawn Christensen’s clunky dialogue and vapid characterizations.

Christensen’s original concept is a potent one but it seems something got lost in a tsunami of notes and rewrites. Even the title doesn’t make sense. There’s no abduction in the movie, not even in the back story, really.

Singleton expects “Abduction” to be a big hit and though there’s no official word, he anticipates directing the sequel. He makes it a promise but if you’ve seen the movie it’s more of a threat. Shame on Lionsgate for charging admission to “Abduction.” It’s so bad that they should be paying you, not the other way around.

* (out of four)

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Some of the next release dates: Hong Kong 29 September, Norway 30 September, Sweden 7 October, Germany 13 October, Portugal 13 October, Finland 14 October, Spain 14 October & Italy 27 October 2011.

 

 

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