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Sunday, September 25, 2011

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(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, dated 26 September, 2011)

Cast: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Nyqvist
Director: John Singleton
Rating: 3 stars
If you want to make a movie that knits together the love story of a commitment-phobic teenager and the girl next door whom he made out with four years ago with an adrenaline-pumping catch-me-if-you-can, you’re best off picking a teenager from the Twilight franchise to star in it. Taylor Lautner does what he does best – stare at a distant object, frown in confusion, breath heavily, spit out his words, and grab his chin consciously in a gesture apparently indicating thoughtfulness.
Abduction begins deceptively, like a regular teen movie. There’s the black kid who thinks his white friends are too mainstream, and wants to show them some underground. Naturally, he’s the guy who’ll steal cars, make fake IDs, and fix passes to the baseball game of the year, all for a good cause, when the need arises. Oh, no, Hollywood can’t be deemed racist till Morgan Freeman stops playing God. Well, and there’s the black kid’s white friend Nathan, who’s on the wrestling team, looks like he drinks steroids every morning, and gets into fights all the time.
When Nathan wakes up half-naked on a lawn after a party, and his furious dad picks him up and challenges him to a boxing match, you think “no wonder this kid goes to the shrink.” Turns out Nathan has other issues too. He has a recurring dream about a woman being attacked by a masked man, and he feels he doesn’t belong at the breakfast table. Screwing up his face as if he’s trying really hard to remember his lines, Lautner pronounces that he wonders who the people sitting across from him are.
Even as his psychiatrist helps him work through his rage issues, Nathan finds something that convinces him his parents are not his parents – his picture on a website carrying details of missing children. After discussing this with the girl next door, and trying to contact the agency that runs the website, he turns to his black friend, who obviously knows all about computers and technology, and figures out that his baby pictures have been morphed.
And as the film’s poster promises, the fight for the truth becomes the fight of his life. Before you know it, the CIA and Russian-speaking intelligence guys (but of course!) who fake fingerprints at the airport are trying to get at Nathan.
As he fights them off trains and plunges into forests with his now-girlfriend in tow, Nathan finds enough time for retrospective. Not the brightest crayon in the box to start off with, he finally figures out that his dad wasn’t so much a freak, as a trainer preparing him for his big day. His girlfriend Karen (Lily Collins) also decides that it’s the right time to confront him about why he didn’t ask her out after they kissed at a family outing in eighth grade. Then, they find some time for the good old nice-nice while fending off the bad guys.
To its credit, and unlike many of its genre, the movie doesn’t overload you with suspense to the extent you lose interest and decide you’ll just look up the Wikipedia entry once you get home. Every now and again, discussions between the CIA and the Russian spies give you a little bit to go on. And most of it gets undone at the next twist. By the end, you’re about as paranoid as Nathan, and have no clue whom to trust. The climactic scene and the denouement soon after are neatly orchestrated, and for once, an action thriller sidesteps the cliché of mush at the end. Despite the presence of Russian bad guys, there’s no torture sequence, so yay for that.
There are times when you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat. And others when you find yourself at the edge of your patience (“I mean, guys, you want to make out now? Get a room once you’re done saving your lives, for God’s sake!”)  Thankfully, one-liners that are designed to sound clever, but never elicit more than a groan in a thriller, have been largely avoided.
The movie’s not particularly different from the others of its ilk, and the acting isn’t any better than you can expect from an action thriller. But chances are that it will hold your attention through its entire duration.


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