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Movie Review: Mission Improbable

By Johnny M

Movie Review: Mission Improbable

September 24, 2011 at 12:40PM EDT

Taylor Lautner is attractive and has nice abs. And guns go bang bang.

Film: Abduction
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Michael Nyqvist
Written by: Shawn Christensen
Directed by: John Singleton
Genre: Action, thriller, teensploitation
Rating: 2 out of 10 / D-

WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY HAVE BEEN ABDUCTED BY MILD SPOILERS!

Nathan Price (Taylor Lautner) is your average, highly attractive, overly-muscled 17-year-old with rage issues, living with his tough-loving parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello). When doing a school project with girl-across-the-street-next-door/long-time crush Karen (Lily Collins) “about websites,” he stumbles upon an age-progressed photo of a missing child who looks uncannily like himself. Just as soon as he finds out that Kevin and Mara are not his real parents, his house is invaded and exploded by random men in suits. Now on the run with Karen, Nathan must find out why he has been living a lie, while evading the CIA’s Frank Burton (Alfred Molina) and random Euro-baddie Viktor Kozlow (Martin Nyqvist). His only ally is his psychiatrist Dr. Bennet (Sigourney Weaver? Really?) who has secrets of her own and may be able to help Nathan with his.

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Look at the size of that plot hole!

Abduction has two primary tasks: 1) it has to prove that Taylor Lautner can be successful in a film that doesn’t include sparkly Mormon vampires and 2) it has to be an entertaining, hopefully thrilling, action/adventure story that doesn’t seem like a total waste of two hours. It probably surprises nobody to hear that it fails spectacularly on both counts. In fact, it may be one of the dumbest, most inept films to be released in 2011; and in a year that includes Transformers 3: More of the Same But Louder and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, that’s no easy task.

Let’s place blame, shall we? It’s like a buffet…there’s just no easy way to start. First we have screenwriter Shawn Christensen, moonlighting from his day job (which he definitely should not give up) as lead singer in the band Stellastarr. Christensen’s script is a total mess, riddled with so many continuity errors, plot holes, astounding leaps of logic and cumbersome and dull-headed lines that it makes Ed Wood seem like Kubrick. It reads like third-rate Bourne Identity fan fiction. There’s also John Singleton, a man who in 1991 was nominated for an Oscar for his debut film Boyz N The Hood, and who 20 years later is relegated to sleep-directing his way through a film straight from direct-to-DVD purgatory. Then of course, there’s the cast…oh, the cast. You might what to get a cup of coffee. We’ll be here a while.

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“Not Without My Nipples,” starring Taylor Lautner’s abs.

With his handsome-yet-slightly-bestial features, chiseled torso and ability to high kick, Taylor Lautner has a very promising career ahead of him…as an underwear model. Wooden when he isn’t overcompensating, Lautner is a mediocre actor at best. He’s great at the action scenes, and he’s wonderful to look at with his shirt off, but eventually he has to open his mouth and ruin the illusion. He could probably be a passable actor if he had the right mentor and the right script, but this certainly isn’t it. The greatest action star in the world couldn’t elevate this film, let alone the guy that plays that werewolf in that movie about that girl with the mopey face. Lily Collins does him no favors, either, proving that Lautner isn’t the blankest slate in the cupboard. Karen is a pretty space that could have been filled by almost any young actress with great hair, and Collins just happens to be it. She has an awkward, embarrassing anti-chemistry with Lautner that makes their scenes together (of which there are too many) actually difficult to sit through.

The film tries to boost both its young stars’ profiles by surrounding them with a number of award-nominated and award-winning actors who know exactly what kind of film they’ve signed for to pay for their second homes. Maria Bello intentionally turns all of her emotions up to 11, while Jason Isaacs seems to willfully chafe against his role, though not even this film can negate his innate charisma. Alfred Molina goes through the motions, as he has many times before, and Michael Nyqvist—one of Sweden’s most celebrated actors and star of the Girl With The… movies—seems like he couldn’t even be bothered to phone in his performance. Most notable, however, is Sigourney Weaver. The fact that Sigourney Weaver is a talented and respected actress is common knowledge, and she knows this more than anybody. She can barely hide her contempt for the material, infusing every line with a smirking, endearing sarcasm that was never in the script.

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Do you believe this crap? Did I just say that out loud?

If Abduction does one thing right, it’s slaughtering brain cells. In fact, it will probably encourage them to charge en masse, lemming-like* off of a precipice in despair. The characters are uniformly dim-witted, even Dr. Bennett. It takes Nathan almost 17 years to realize that he doesn’t even seem to have the same ethnicity as his “parents,” never mind looking nothing like either of them in any way. On the run from gun-wielding goons, Nathan and Karen never think to do things like LOCK THE DAMN DOOR, but manage to prioritize a PG-13 make-out session in the middle of their chase. 

There’s also the fact that Nathan himself is a something of a douche. The film opens up with him riding on the hood of a speeding car (in a blatant rip-off of Death Proof), hooting like a maniac, on his way to get his underage self wasted at a pool party. When he and Karen are looking at websites of missing and abducted children, they think it’s funny to mock the “what they may look like now” photos. When a film spends almost a full 25% of its time setting up the main character before any real plot kicks in, and then makes him look like a total ass, it doesn’t necessarily engender sympathy in the audience.

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Pictured: audience sympathy.

The film’s internal logical is virtually nil. Both the CIA and the bad guys have instant access to every security camera, phone (cell and otherwise) and internet connection anywhere. Nathan’s life seems to have been a massive set-up from day one, and it’s incredulous that so many people could have maintained the illusion that long. As it is, nothing comes into play until Nathan finds the website with his picture, which was apparently set up by Kozlow and his generically Slavic** thugs with the hope that Nathan would a) randomly find it even though the chance that he would is almost non-existent; b) contact the website for information on the picture; and c) have a computer with a built-in webcam. 

(AYIIIEEEAHHH!!!)***

Worse yet, there isn’t a single abduction in the entire film. Plot threads are picked up and discarded at random, and a final act plot twist is beyond ridiculous. It’s quite possible that the film is intentionally this bad, but it isn’t nearly self-aware enough for that, and if this is supposed to be an ironic commentary on dumb action films, ala Shoot ‘Em Up, nobody told the actors, director, screenwriter, editor, composer, gaffer or guy that makes the explosions go boom. During the home invasion scene, Mara whips out some serious kick-ass that’s supposed to make us go “wow,” but instead just inspires laughter. Later during that sequence, a downed bad guy tells Nathan that there’s a bomb in the oven…and sure enough, there’s a huge movie-style time bomb in the oven with seven seconds left on it, even though there’s no possible way anyone could have planted it there. It was just time for something to go big bada boom, so hey, let’s put a bomb in the oven! Yeah! That’ll work!

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Durrrr…

Abduction is a film that’s not only brain-dead, but also treats the audience as if it’s equally as stupid. It shows as much contempt for its characters as it does for its viewers, and it seems to exist only because someone somewhere is insisting that everybody see Taylor Lautner as a viable leading man and action star. To that I say, here’s a pair of 2xist Sport briefs, Taylor. Your next photo shoot’s in an hour. 

* Yes, I know this doesn’t really happen. I read Wikipedia, too, you know.

** I think, anyway. It’s hard to tell. They all use Standard Eastern European Accent 5B.

*** R. I. P. Brain Cell number 7283.

JOHNNY M is a frequent FBOTU contributor and really misses Crow and Tom Servo.<a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.fanboysoftheuniverse.com/index.php/forums/member/21/" href="http://www.fanboysoftheuniverse.com/index.php/forums/member/21/" title="<img src=" http:="" http://www.fanboysoftheuniverse.com="" images="" uploads="" johnnyportrait2.jpg"="" style="border: 0;" alt="image" width="74" height="100">image