He just saw his parents get murdered – in front of his eyes!

Also opening this week:

• Friends with Benefits ★★½



Directed by John Singleton. Starring Taylor Lautner, Maria Bello, Jason Isaacs, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Michael Nyqvist, Lily Collins, Elisabeth Röhm, Aunjanue Ellis, Denzel Whitaker, Roger Guenveur Smith. Written by Shawn Christensen.

Abduction is a slick, polished effort from a usually reliable director, featuring an intriguing premise and (for the material) a talented cast. Only problem: it’s entirely illogical, unbelievable, and just about the dumbest thriller to come along in quite some time. It’s a bad sign when the title of a movie makes no sense (no one is abducted here), but it’s something else when the entire movie makes no sense. What a mess.

I don’t mean to pour the hate on Abduction; it’s had enough of that already with a sparkling 4% on the Tomatometer. This is a bad movie to be sure, but some fun of the so-bad-it’s-good variety can still be had; for a preposterous, ridiculous, and utterly laughable thriller, this one is up there. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty dull.

It starts out promising. While doing a research paper on missing children, highschooler Nathan (Taylor Lautner) discovers, yup, his own photo (and a hilarious computer-aged composite) on a missing persons website. In a tearful admission, Nathan’s mom (Maria Bello) tells him that he isn’t her son – but wait, before she can explain further, she has something more important to attend to.

Now, we have a movie called Abduction, and kid who finds his picture on a missing persons website, and aha, yes, you think you know where this is going. And at about this time, I was maybe even interested in why mom and dad (Jason Isaacs) abducted Nathan, and about his violent tendencies monitored by psychiatrist Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver).

But no – forget all that. Entirely irrelevant. If you took this premise, and tried to come up with the most nonsensical explanation possible, you wouldn’t come close to matching Abduction.

Would you believe: that it was a fake missing persons website monitored by Serbian mafia? That the bad guys hack into and listen in on literally every phone call, even ones made by the CIA? That the CIA hijacks calls made to 911? That the main villain (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist) just wants his stolen data back (as in, he doesn’t care who might have a copy, he only wants the 1s and 0s, as if he never made a backup?) That a handgun is snuck into a baseball game and taped underneath a seat? That there’s a bomb in the oven? That cell phones can be turned into listening devices to explain away plot holes? That Taylor Lautner is an action hero?

No, Lautner is not an action hero; apologies to Conan the Barbarian’s Jason Momoa – this is wooden delivery (“I just saw my parents get murdered – in front of my eyes!”) Abduction is not the ideal showcase for Lautner to show what he’s capable of outside the Twilight series; Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, has done a much better job of choosing his projects. The supporting cast – Weaver, Isaacs, Bello, and also Alfred Molina as a goofy CIA agent, Lily Collins as the love interest, and Denzel Whitaker as the best friend – doesn’t fare much better. I hope they were compensated well.

John Singleton was once a great (Boyz n the Hood) and then socially provocative (Higher Learning, Poetic Justice) director who still churned out quality work when he turned to more traditional Hollywood fare; under Singleton, films like Four Brothers, the Shaft remake, and even 2 Fast 2 Furious were a good deal better than they might have been.

Abduction, however, is the work of somebody who has completely lost control of his movie; while Singleton shouldn’t be held completely responsible, he’ll certainly face the consequences. More at fault is the preposterous script. You might expect to see six or eight credited writers on a piece of junk like this, with another dozen behind the scenes. Abduction gives credit to a single scribe (and sacrificial lamb), Shawn Christensen, his very first feature. My condolences.

With Singleton, some respected actors, a competent crew, and a modest $35 million budget, this seems to be, you know, a real movie. If you’re not paying attention – maybe you’re dozing off while this is playing on an airplane – you might be misled. But make no mistake: Abduction is utter nonsense.


Also opening: Alois Nebel (showtimes | IMDb), a rotoscoped period drama from director Tomáš Luňák starring Miroslav Krobot, Karel Roden,Ondřej Malý, and Ivan Trojan. Screening in Czech, but you can catch an English-subtitled print at Kino Světozor.

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