“Twilight” alumnus Taylor Lautner makes his debut as a leading man in an action film tailor-made — ahem — for him. “Abduction” puts Lautner in motion and never goes very far wrong as long as he remains in motion.
The buff teen werewolf of “Twilight” plays a young man who has his world upended and finds himself on the run when enemy agents attack his home and the people he knew as his parents aren’t who they say they are. In the opening minutes, we meet Nathan (Lautner), a studly wrestler in high school, constantly tested by his strict and martial dad (Jason Isaacs), nurtured by his more understanding mom (Maria Bello).
If only they knew how he “surfed” on the hood of a pal’s pickup truck, how he gets blotto at teen beer busts. Dad finds out and punishes the kid with more mixed martial arts training. No wonder the boy’s in therapy. Sigourney Weaver is there to listen when Nathan complains that “I still have the dreams.”
But a class project with his elusive, unavailable neighbor (Lily Collins, eyebrows to die for) sends them to a missing-children website. That’s where they find a toddler photo of Nathan, reported as “missing.” And in asking about that, the teens trigger an explosion of revelations about Nathan’s past and a desperate escape that sends boy and girl on the lam, with no idea of who is after them or who they can trust.
Nathan fights and struggles to outsmart the folks chasing him: Michael Nyqvist of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and Alfred Molina. And Lautner, who came of age in the obscenely successful “Twilight” films, struggles to make his acting as effortless as his fights. As Nathan, he asks his mom, “Are you my mother?” Compare his stone-faced asking of the question with Bello’s rich, warm, alarmed way of playing the reaction: “You don’t understand, baby. It’s complicated.”
Director John Singleton is more concerned with the fights and chases than the human interplay between his two attractive young leads. Collins, daughter of singer Phil and the future Snow White, manages moments of pathos.
“Are we going to die, Nathan?”
Lautner remains impassive.
But the script and Singleton see to it that Molina’s performance delivers a light touch, and the younger players never let us lose the sense that we’re dealing with young people who don’t know how to process all this information that’s been thrown at them. Lautner seems in over his head because that’s the way Nathan should react.
With its violence, underage drinking, reckless behavior and profanity, “Abduction” falls in the same corner of the youth market as the “Twilight” movies. Some moments and many lines (“Sometimes, I feel like a freak.”) feel cribbed from that series.
And with a plot that most adults will stay a step or two ahead of, “Abduction” isn’t going to challenge anybody who has seem more than one “on the lam” picture. But Lautner, as action hero, doesn’t embarrass himself, not by a long shot. He may not play the tender moments like an old pro. But then again, neither have Arnold, Sly or Jason Statham.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, brief language, some sexual content and teen partying
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Michael Nyqvist, Sigourney Weaver, Maria Bello, Jason Isaacs
Credits: Directed by John Singleton, written by Shawn Christensen. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 1:46