Taylor Lautner explodes on-screen as a young man whose secret past is set to collide with a dangerous reality. After uncovering a deadly lie, Nathan (Lautner) is propelled on a lethal, no-holds barred mission to learn the truth. Aided by a devoted family friend (Sigourney Weaver), Nathan's hunt for the facts pits him against ruthless assassins and questionable allies.
I don't know about you, but I respect enthusiasm and a hard work ethic. Taylor Lautner has been busting his ass in Hollywood for over a decade, and after doing impossible things like gaining 30 pounds of muscle so that he wouldn't get fired between 'Twilight' and 'New Moon', he and his Dad started a production company built around the idea of making the young actor a star in his own right. This is their first movie. Not the noblest intentions, I suppose, but this kid has guts and a work ethic that puts most of us to shame. And despite his recent fame, he seems like a nice kid who loves making movies.
It's a real shame the poor guy is unable to emote beyond two facial modes:
'Abduction' has a surprisingly simple, yet engaging premise. What if everything you knew about your life was a lie? And what if the truth came knocking at your door in the form of gun toting assassins, hurling you from high school into the adult world of international espionage?
Nathan Harper (Lautner) has an awesome life. He's popular with the boys and girls, though there's some friction with Karen the girl next door (Lily Collins). He's the school's star wrestler. He's rich. And his parents (the always wonderful Jason Isaacs and Maria Bello) love the shit out of him and each other. But Nathan has a recurring nightmare about a woman being attacked, so he goes to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Bennet (Sigourney Weaver). When Nathan and Karen are assigned a sociology project, the two accidentally uncover a missing persons' website that says Nathan may have been abducted as a child. Unbeknownst to Nathan, the site is actually a dummy portal set up by Serbian terrorist Nikola Kozlow (Michael Nyqvist) to find Nathan. Nathan's innocent call to the site triggers a series of events that leaves Nathan's "parents" murdered, his house destroyed, and Nathan and Karen on the run for their lives from the terrorists and the CIA, lead by Frank Burton (Alfred Molina), who have also been watching.
Why is Nathan so important? Enter Dr. Bennet with the huge reveal: Nathan's real father, Martin Price, is a CIA opp who went into hiding years ago to protect Nathan after the death of his real mother and, more recently, stole an encrypted list of corrupt CIA operatives from Kozlow. Since Martin went underground, three other CIA operatives (Dr. Bennet and the two people Nathan thought were his parents) have been raising and protecting him. But now, no one can be trusted, so Dr. Bennet sends Nathan and Karen out into the world alone (wait, really?) to escape the Kozlow's assassins, who want Nathan to lure Martin out of hiding, as well as the CIA.
What follows is a Hitchcockian man-on-the-run action thriller where Nathan and Karen flee, fight, escape, and parkour over various obstacles while uncovering truths about Nathan's real parents until the final confrontation with Kozlow and possibly corrupt CIA personnel.
'Abduction' can be fun at times. The stunts are cool and the fights believable thanks to Mr. Lautner's presence and physicality. And after constantly playing second fiddle to a vampire named Edward, it must have been thrilling for Mr. Lautner to be The Hero who gets the girl. But Lautner doesn't seem like a real teenager. When you think about it, it makes sense -- the kid's been working his whole life -- leaving most of the film's relationships (family, romantic, friends) feeling false.
The film's amazing and seasoned cast -- Molina, Weaver, Isaacs, and Bello -- ground the film the best they can. For Ms. Bello, her fight sequence was one of the reasons she joined the project, and it's damn impressive watching her stab and punch.
But, I wonder if the film is trying too hard to be cool? On one hand it's impossible sympathize with Nathan's angst because the film's overlong first act is nothing but scene after scene telling us about how great he is -- at everything -- to justify his ability to take on terrorists and presumably well-funded government agencies. Telling the audience that Nathan is well-liked, tough, and living a normal life should take one or two scenes, not 25-30 minutes.
The plot, therefore, is repetitive and feels almost like it's doing things just for the sake of doing them. Sure, the individual scenes work, but don’t always service the story. One example of this is the inclusion of a scene where Nathan's fake-father boxes with Nathan. It's a layered scene, outlining a "father"-son bond, acting as punishment for Nathan's partying, quietly prepping Nathan for his secret life, and showing the audience Nathan's inherent ass-kicking abilities. Then we see the same scene (structurally speaking) establishing Nathan's awesome wrestling skills. As it turns out the "father"-son scene was a last minute addition by director, John Singleton, which makes sense in hindsight. In truth, it's a better scene than the now unnecessary wrestling moment. There also seems to be some missing logic in moments like why do Nathan and Karen flee from the police sirens, only to immediately call 911 while at the hospital expecting help? And so on.
Another oddity seems to be missing payoffs to various character setups, such as Nathan's friend, Gilly (Denzel Whitaker). Gilly makes fake IDs and it's a nice moment when he later makes Nathan and Karen fake IDs to help them escape the city... Except they never use the IDs for anything. And though Karen and Gilly seem to have specific roles to play in the film's climax, they both disappear. Oh well, such are the tough choices while editing, but perhaps a few things could have been cut earlier so when they didn't come back around, I wouldn't miss them.
I guess it all comes down to Mr. Lautner. I respect his work ethic and admire his ability to find scripts with fun, thrilling concepts. Don't we all feel alone in the world sometimes; and on those days, wouldn't it be fun to be a real spy? But Lautner just doesn't have the emotional range to carry a film or seem realistic (to whatever degree that's required in an action thriller), nor does he have to courage to be anything less than superhuman at all times. His emotional problems and fears are expositional throwaways, so we never get to feel why he's so unhappy in his awesome, has-everything life.
'Abduction' has a few fun and thrilling moments, but it's a pretty bland and illogical action movie. If you're dying to see what an awesome version of this exact premise would turn out like, rent 'Hanna' instead. Both films are about teenagers coming of age and learning of their true identities / connections to the CIA. Both films have reported budgets around $30-35Million. Oddly enough, 'Abduction' did better worldwide ($82M vs. $63.7M), but 'Hanna' grossed more domestically ($40M vs. $28M). It's fascinating to see how two different filmmaking teams with a similar premise can make two vastly different films in terms of style, pacing, and tone. 'Hanna' is terrific and engaging and 'Abduction' is... less so. Which is a shame; Taylor Lautner seems so damned nice.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate's Blu-ray presentation of 'Abduction' is a single disc edition featuring one Region A locked BD50. Inside the standard eco-case, there is a paper insert with a redemption code / download instructions of the film's Digital Copy, which will only work with iTunes. Forced trailers include the Abduction's Motion Picture Soundtrack, 'One for the Money', 'The Hunger Games', 'Warrior, 'The Devil's Double', and Epix.
While there are certainly some strong moments of resolution, detail, and clarity, 'Abduction' on Blu-ray (AVC MPEG-4, aspect ratio 2.35:1) looks more like a catalog transfer of a decade old film rather than something released in 2011. Simply put, the movie appears flat, with highlight details lacking and shadows crushed. I was quite surprised, when watching the Special Features, how much more vibrant and detailed the HD behind-the-scenes featurettes looked compared to the feature film itself. I suppose this could be intentional, but the film doesn't appear to have a muted color palette or any exaggerated stylization. Green screen replaced backgrounds (like those seen from the Amtrak train or Sigourney Weaver's BMW) are noticeably grainy and fake looking to the point of distraction. There are also a few missed marks in the focus department.
Despite the overall flatness, 'Abduction' succeeds in terms close up textures and facial details, skin tones, and brightly lit exteriors such as the film's opening helicopter shots or scenes set at PNC Park (Pirates Stadium). Night exteriors, despite the aforementioned crush or perhaps because of it, generally look good as well. There also does not appear to be any compression issues like banding or macro-blocking.
It's unusual when a modern action movie doesn't sparkle on Blu-ray. 'Abduction' looks pretty good, but not great.
I usually look forward to Lionsgate 7.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound tracks, whether they be original to the theatrical release or remixed for the Blu-ray, but given its action movie thriller intentions, 'Abduction' is a bit of a letdown. Let's be clear, the film sounds fine. Dialog, music, and sound effects are well placed and clear. But other than a few highlights, such as the rumbling train fight or the shootout at the diner, this track isn't as aggressive as it could be. Part of this is the movie itself -- nothing truly action-packed happens for the first 30 minutes or so. But even in the action scenes, the sound mix seems more interested in the pop-rock soundtrack than what's happening on screen. Which, I suppose, is totally fine if that's the filmmakers' intentions, but even the music mix seemed to underwhelm.
Again, much like the video, perhaps I'm spending too much time describing small issues. The film sounds fine. Everything is where is should be and supports the movie. There doesn't seem to be any egregious mistakes. I suppose, in 2011 or 2012, I personally expect more from action thrillers mixed in 7.1. As I mentioned above, I coincidentally watched 'Hanna' on Blu-ray the day after 'Abduction', and there's no comparison. The similarly budgeted, similarly themed 'Hanna' blows this out of the water in terms of panning, depth, dynamic range, and clarity.
'Abduction' isn't what one would call feature laden, but what brief material fans do have to explore is nicely produced and, unlike so many "making of's", actually gives interested viewers insight into the film's development and production.
'Abduction' can be fun at times, and the film does everything it sets out to do, but in the end it spends too much time trying to be cool rather than being as tight and logical as possible. The Blu-ray's visual presentation is generally strong, but it suffers from an overall flatness and lack of detail in bright and dark areas. The audio is good in spots, like the diner sequence, but underwhelming for an action thriller mixed in 7.1. Fans should be pleased, and the special features, while slight, are well made. For everyone else, this isn't must see viewing. For fans only.