As Jacob Black the bronze slice of werewolf beefcake in the Twilight films Taylor Lautner was propelled to stardom not by any demonstrable acting prowess but by the frenzied shrieks of tween girls which rise to a deafening pitch whenever he doffs his shirt to reveal his chiseled physique. (Not an infrequent occurrence.) From a talent standpoint he ranks a bit below his Twilight co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson but his skillset is more than adequate enough to qualify him for action-heroism a field in which even range-deficient brutes like Vin Diesel have found steady employment.
In the action thriller Abduction Lautner plays Nathan a high-school student living a seemingly idyllic suburban existence. And yet for reasons he can’t quite comprehend he’s plagued by the gnawing suspicion that he’s somehow living someone else’s life. The most fortuitous of coincidences leads him to discover his baby picture on a missing persons website which in turn leads to the revelation that his parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello) are not actually his parents. This is the first of many bombshells that drive the film’s inane and convoluted conspiracy plotline.
Nathan has little time to ponder his parentage before armed assassins arrive at his doorstep and he’s forced to flee taking his neighbor/love interest Karen (Lily Collins) with him. On the run trailed by shady Serbian bad guys (and later the CIA) he sets about solving the mystery of his upbringing and divining the true nature of his identity.
As you’ve no doubt already surmised the plot of Abduction borrows rather liberally from the Bourne franchise right down to Nathan possessing an inbred set of fighting skills that come in handy whenever the odd anonymous goon comes knocking. This unfortunately is where the similarities between the films end. Returning to the director’s chair for the first time since 2005’s Four Brothers John Singleton has little to offer beyond a trite and predictable collage of conspiracy-thriller clichés. No one can be trusted threats lurk around every corner surveillance is omnipresent etc. etc.
What’s remarkable is the solid cast Singleton was able to amass for such unremarkable fare: In addition to Bello and Isaacs Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina appear in supporting roles playing a psychiatrist who isn’t what she seems and a CIA agent who isn’t what he seems respectively. It’s hard to see what attracted them to this silly enterprise. Certainly it couldn’t have been the often squirm-inducing dialogue they’re saddled with. Perhaps they’re Team Jacob partisans.
And what of Mr. Lautner's performance? His fans will be heartened to know that the kid isn’t half-bad in Abduction. Though his line-readings can be a bit stiff he exudes a decent amount of charm develops a nice romantic spark with co-star Collins and gamely tackles the film’s various stunts and fight scenes. He even manages to keep his shirt on for almost the entire film. Which admittedly some of you might count as a drawback.