dir John Singleton
scr Shawn Christensen
prd Doug Davison, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Dan Lautner, Roy Lee, Lee Stollman
with Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, Michael Nyqvist, Denzel Whitaker, Elisabeth Rohm, Antonique Smith, Allen Williamson, William Peltz
release US 23.Sep.11, UK 28.Sep.11
11/US Lionsgate 1h46
Run for it: Lautner and Collins

molina weaver isaacs
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Abduction There's an intriguing premise to this snappy action thriller, but it's never properly developed by the inane script and bland direction. Director Singleton and writer Christensen are far more interested in macho posturing and nasty violence than characters or plausibility.

Nathan (Lautner) is a lively Pittsburgh teen with even livelier parents (Isaacs and Bello), although he sees a shrink (Weaver) to keep his anger issues in check. While working on a school project with childhood crush Karen (Collins), he stumbles across a missing-child website with a picture of him at age 3. Suddenly he doubts who he really is, and indeed he and Karen have uncovered a secret involving a foreign agent (Nyqvist) and a CIA boss (Molina) who are both desperate to get their hands on some important information.

With deeply unsubtle camerawork and editing, every twist and turn of Nathan's odyssey is suggested in advance and then reiterated to make sure we got it. But this is filmmaking for idiots, since nothing is actually that complicated. As Nathan and Karen go on the run, their pursuers are one small step behind them, mainly to keep suspense levels high. And the outrageous stunts are inserted to look cool rather than contribute to the action.

Indeed, Lautner's entire performance consists of angling his jawline to catch the light, flexing his muscled back and abs and giving wry little smiles as if to say, "I'm a movie star, deal with it." So we're lucky that there's a solid cast around him: Weaver, Isaacs and Bello are terrific as characters who we know from the start are more than they seem to be, while Molina has fun as the slippery, possibly untrustworthy "good" guy. Poor Collins barely registers.

There's a sense that Singleton wanted this to be a Hitchcock-style thriller about an innocent young man caught in a web of intrigue. Note the wacky camera moves, the train action set piece and the crowded baseball stadium climax. But the MacGuffin (a list of double agents stored in a mobile phone) makes no sense at all when you think about it. Energetic but dimwitted action doesn't build suspense. And, truthfully, it's not much more than a vaguely enjoyable star vehicle.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 23.Sep.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall