Taylor Lautner puts the "abs" in "Abduction," which, for the most part, is not a bad thing.
In his first starring role, he does more heavy lifting of the kick-action, than dramatic, variety. Throw in some spectacular shots of Pittsburgh as a backdrop and you've got a thriller that will please a range of moviegoers, especially tweens. And yes, he is required to remove his shirt a couple of times.
To be fair, the "Abduction" screenplay by Shawn Christensen requires something from viewers as well. It's best to put the logical part of one's mind on hold, all the better to enjoy Mr. Lautner's considerable martial arts skills.
2 1/2 stars = Average
- Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins and Alfred Molina.
- Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, brief language, some sexual content and teen partying.
Mr. Lautner's Nathan Harper is a high school kid who has it all: good looks, loving parents who still dance romantically on the pool terrace, a fabulous house, good friends. So what if he has the occasional bad dream and the sneaking suspicion he's living someone else's life. His therapist (Sigourney Weaver) assures him he'll be fine.
Oh, he's a long way from fine. A visit to a seemingly random missing children's website turns up a photo that looks suspiciously like Nathan. And wouldn't you know, the kid in the picture is wearing an old striped shirt identical to one that happens to be stuffed in a drawer at home.
Just when Nathan hopes to find some answers, mayhem ensues. People get shot and kicked -- a lot -- and there is a vague-but-hilarious mention of a bomb in the kitchen oven. Because a bomb outside of the oven would not blow up the house quite so well?
The plot involves all sorts of double-cross elements: CIA agents, black ops experts, snipers, an encrypted mobile device and mysterious phone/Internet hackers. This isn't "Inception" -- the details really don't matter as much as enjoying a good car/motorcycle chase and the sight of "Abduction's" attractive young leads outrunning and outwitting the bad guys.
Mr. Lautner is good at glowering, whether it's to show fear, dismay or anger. Early scenes at a teen pool party, as well as a frighteningly irresponsible car stunt, let him loosen up and smile a little. It's a good look for him, yet too fleeting.
Lily Collins as his neighbor/quasi-love interest Karen spends much of the film watching Nathan run the show. Even when they stop by an empty apartment in search of clues, Nathan picks up a cool leather jacket and a BMW but Karen? Nada.
We are led to believe that they have a history together or at least what passes for one since they had an eighth-grade summer camp flirtation. Although "Abduction" has a PG-13 rating, their romantic interlude on a train is oddly chaste. A similar chastity filters an earlier scene where Nathan is competing for the Hampton Talbots wresting team against what appears to be Fox Chapel.
Everyone is wearing basketball shorts and tops, instead of wrestling singlets, as if proper attire were somehow too revealing.
The cast, which is a director's dream, includes Maria Bello, Alfred Molina, Ms. Weaver, Jason Isaacs and Michael Nyqvist. Mr. Isaacs, in particular, seems to be having fun with his role as Nathan's dad, and a kick-boxing scene between father and son is something straight out of "The Great Santini."
But Mr. Christensen's script -- his feature film debut -- lacks cohesion. Now, the average Pittsburgher may be distracted from the plot while trying to figure out how a car going south on the Fort Pitt Bridge would emerge in a wooded area, but that's beside the point.
The city looks great, with locations including Downtown's August Wilson Center, Chatham University, Mt. Lebanon, Greenfield, the South Side and a climactic finish at PNC Park. Mr. Lautner, who did all his own stunts, has a few "wow" moments, especially when he slides down the steep, glass top of a ballpark escalator.
It's satisfying as popcorn fare. But if director John Singleton chooses to return to Pittsburgh for the recently announced sequel, perhaps he might pack a better script.
Maria Sciullo: email@example.com or 412-263-1478. First Published September 23, 2011 4:00 AM