Saturday, January 28, 2012


With the recent announcement of the 2011 Oscar nominations, I took a few moments to figure out what 2011 movies I need to watch before the big awards show.  I don't necessarily like to just watch the good movies, though; my annual best-of list includes the best and the worst of the year.  Upon reflection, however, I realized that my hatred for Sucker Punch was skewing this year's list.  I needed another suitable contender for my Worst Movie of the Year award.  But what could possibly contend with the Punch?  And then I remembered Abduction.
I wish this was my reaction to Abduction

Abduction begins with Nathan (Taylor Lautner) being one crayzee dude, riding on the hood of his buddy's truck the entire way to a huge house party.  Whoa, man!  That shows attitude and baditude!  This movie has character development coming out its ears!  And it has great dialogue, too.
Example: "He who smelt it dealt it"
The first line (that isn't "Woooo!") is "Let's go, baby, we got bitches waiting!"  I love when an opening scene gives me an accurate idea of how good the rest of the film will be.  At the party, one of Nathan's friends (Denzel Whitaker) momentarily stops binge drinking to sell some fake IDs to other party-goers.  Wait...what?  Yes, despite the apparent ease with which the characters got alcohol, they are all supposed to be teens.  To be fair, at least the actors playing the teens are all either teens or in their early twenties, so this isn't as obnoxious as it can be in films.  That doesn't really have much to do with the rest of the movie, but it stuck out to me.  Anyway, Nathan is assigned a school project with his neighbor, Karen (Lily "My dad's Phil" Collins), which has them looking into child abductions.  This assignment guides them to the wonders of the interweb, where they find a website that takes child photos and runs them through a computer-generated aging process.  On that website, Nathan and Karen find one abduction victim who is projected to look exactly like Taylor Lautner!  Or, possibly the guy from The Hunger Games.  Or some other teenager with dark hair.  OMG, IDK, ROTFL, WTF.  No wonder Nathan doesn't look like the people who raised him (the fairly pasty Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs); he was abductioned kidnapped!  Nathan contacts the website, but is put off by their odd questions ("What is your location?  What are you wearing?"); it turns out that the website is run by terrorists, who were waiting to find Nathan for some reason.  A few hours later, Nathan's "parents" are dead, and he finds himself on the run from international black ops agents, the CIA, and --- cue dramatic music --- his past.
Cue glower

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  This movie is awful.  It's not just that Taylor Lautner is incapable of mimicking human emotion, there is so much more that is wrong with Abduction.  For starters, let's look at the conspiracy that is in place.  The basic premise here is that Nathan is being raised by people who are not his parents invaluable to international terrorists.  So that whole subplot of Nathan being a child who was abducted...?  That gets debunked pretty early in the film, which makes this one of the least accurately titled movies I can recall.  It's like calling Back to the Future "Late For School."  Still, terrorists want to find Nathan to use him as a bargaining chip so they could get...something.  To find Nathan, they created and actively maintained several websites that claimed lil' Nathan was abducted.  The odds of any of these sites getting a bite from their precise target is infinitesimal, but the sites are actively monitored by a trained black ops agent at all times.  Really?  You don't outsource that to some nerd?  You give that job to the same guy who is leading the first attempt to capture the target, once he is located?  Really?  And what are the odds of the website-monitoring location being close enough to Nathan's house for the monitoring guy to grab a partner, dress up like a cop and show up at Nathan's doorstep within maybe three hours?

Thankfully, Abduction has many instances where that logic seems downright plausible, when compared to the rest of the movie.  Let's say that you're the CIA agent (played by Alfred Molina) tasked with tracking down Nathan before the terrorists.  Ignoring the fact that the CIA probably wouldn't legally lead a manhunt on US soil for a non-terrorist American citizen, let's say that you finally catch up with the boy: what do you do?  Take him to a secure location?  Bug out of the area as quickly as possible, because the terrorists are close behind?  Give him a disguise and help him go underground?
If you answered "D: commandeer a mom-and-pop burger joint and sit the highly valuable target by a large glass window," then you are apparently smart enough to apply for a job in the CIA.  Not surprisingly, "D" turns out to be a poor choice.  The odd logic of Abduction doesn't stop there, but getting any more in-depth will just give me a headache.

The acting in Abduction suffers from the presence of its two leads.  This is the first time I have seen Taylor Lautner on screen for more than a few moments and he is just shockingly bad.  I'll give him some credit; it appears that he can memorize most of his dialogue.  But he's just awful!  You know how most actors will show emotion in their parts, and will carry that emotion from dialogue chunk to dialogue chunk or even (if they're mildly competent) from scene to scene?  That ability is light years beyond what this guy can pull off convincingly.  I hope he invests that Twilight money wisely, because he won't be on the cover of Tiger Beat forever.  Lily Collins isn't as bad as Lautner, but she's still a long way off from being good here.  Granted, her character is written as a typical girl-next-door crush, but she's awkward and whiny and...well...okay, maybe she acts like a real none-too-bright teen would in a similarly outlandish situation.  That still doesn't make her pleasant to watch or explain the caterpillars on her face.
Maybe she's trying to reform Oasis?
None of the adult cast really get enough screen time to balance the awfulness that is Taylor Lautner.  Maria Bello was halfway decent.  Jason Isaacs was surprisingly likable, especially when he was living out the fantasy of Abduction viewers --- he got to beat the crap out of his "son."  Alfred Molina was wasted in a stupid supporting role, while Sigourney Weaver got to play an annoying character in a stupid supporting role.  Michael Nyqvist was suitably foreign and evil-looking as the lead terrorist/bad guy black ops agent, but it takes quite a bit more than that to make an entertaining villain. 
The blank stare of evil
Elisabeth Röhm randomly showed up as Nathan's real mother; surprisingly, this was not a speaking part.  Dermot Mulroney had an uncredited part toward the end, and now that I've seen this movie, I think "uncredited" was the way to go.

Abduction was directed by John "I was relevant in 1991" Singleton, although "directed" might be a strong term.  Sure, part of the fault lies with the paper-thin script from first-time full-feature screenwriter Shawn Christensen, but Singleton is simply a hack here.  Do you like goofy editing (best example: the reveal of the CGI-aged Nathan)?  How about poor use of camera tricks?  And one-dimensional acting?
Literally phoning it in
Yeah, John Singleton delivers on all fronts.  What bothered me most about his direction in this movie was that it is so far from playing to his strengths.  Singleton's best films (Boyz n the Hood and Baby Boy, in my opinion) have a fairly nice but uncharismatic lead actor surrounded by colorful characters; they're dramas that focus on (fairly) small-level dramas that he blows up to big-time drama.  Abduction is an action movie that should have been a tense thriller.  I love the idea of not trusting the people who raised you, but that concept (the best part of this plot) is jettisoned almost immediately for a dull, substandard chase movie.  Oh, and John Singleton can't film an entertaining fight scene to save his life.

Does anything go right in Abduction?'s not so bad that you spend the movie hating everyone involved.  It's utter crap, though, make no mistake.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from Abduction:
  • One of the reasons Nathan is convinced that he was abducted is because he recognized the shirt in the maybe-him child photo on the website.  Okay, fine.  To prove his suspicions are correct, Nathan looks for and finds this unremarkable, fifteen-plus years old shirt in a matter of minutes.  So...A) his "parents" held on to his pre-abducted belongings? B) a teenager knows exactly where his toddler clothes are stored and remembers them, down to the stains? C) his family held on to his toddler clothes instead of giving them away or selling them at garage sales, like every other American family?
  • When Nathan asks his "mom" if she is his mother, she says "...No."  Well, that was easy.
  • Terrorists looking to kidnap Nathan place a bomb in the kitchen oven, and it is working on a timer.  Maybe they should have acted like they were in a hurry then, hmm?
  • Abduction is amazing with the ridiculous amounts of perfect timing and manhours used by the CIA.  A phone call to 911 goes directly to the CIA, without an operator putting Nathan on hold.  Within moments of being spotted on a security camera, underlings are on the scene, giving chase.  And yet...two dumb teenagers manage to avoid capture for days.
  • The bad guy threatened to kill all of Nathan's Facebook friends.  
  • My wife summed up the first half of the movie with "also, so far, Taylor Lautner's a dick."
  • The bad guy steals Nathan's gun by reaching just under his crotch in a quick and sneaky manner.
  • The movie ends with a Train song.  Because the movie wasn't bad enough on its own.


  1. Hm. January 31st has passed and no Drive review? I assume you are either dead or a lot less cool than I remember.

    I am glad you review these shitty movies. Reading your review saves me from watching the flick and your loathing over it is much more entertaining than the multi-million dollar end product. Was there no lefty gold in this one? It looked like it had funny-bad potential.

  2. I've been holding off on Drive because I thought it would get a Best Picture nomination. A local theater runs all the BP nominees over two days, and I was planning to see it then. Since it wasn't nominated, I should probably be reviewing it within the next week or so.

    As for Lefty Gold, I try to save that for movies that are bad, but I genuinely enjoy. Abduction does have some laughably bad moments, but the film as a whole is mind-numbingly bad.

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