When 16-year-old Taylor Lautner was cast as lovesick Jacob Black in the first Twilight film, media attention focused on Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and their sizzling chemistry.
Then Lautner gained 30lbs in muscle to convincingly portray Jacob’s transformation into a snarling werewolf.
Overnight, the young actor became a sex symbol and gained a following to rival his co-stars.
Lautner strikes out on his own in the action-packed thriller Abduction, in which he attempts to prove that he’s much more than a pretty face with washboard abs.
Alas, he’s picked a dud.
John Singleton’s film boasts turbo-charged chases and fight sequences but Shawn Christensen’s script is littered with unintentionally hilarious interludes and some excruciating dialogue.
The highlight is a toss-up between the gun-toting henchman who confides, “There’s a bomb in the oven”, and the chief villain, who snarls menacingly, “When I’m finished, you’ll be responsible for the deaths of everyone on Facebook.”
That would be quite some killing spree.
High school student Nathan Harper (Lautner) thinks he has the perfect life with caring parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs) and Mara (Maria Bello).
Yet something is amiss.
“I walk around like everyone else but inside I feel like a stranger in my own life,” Nathan tells his shrink, Dr Bennett (Sigourney Weaver), who twitches nervously, tipping us off that she knows more than she is letting on.
While researching a school project on missing children, Nathan discovers that he bears an uncanny resemblance to the age-modified image of a boy who went missing many years ago.
“If this is real, then who are those people living in your house?” asks next-door neighbour Karen (Lily Collins), the object of Nathan’s smouldering affections.
Before Nathan has a chance to learn the truth from his parents, assassins slay Kevin and Mara and the teenager goes on the run with Karen in tow, aided by best friend Gilly (Denzel Whitaker), who makes ‘the best fake IDs in Pennsylvania’.
That should come in useful.
Then shadowy CIA Agent Burton (Alfred Molina) makes contact with Nathan and warns the teenager that he a pawn in an evil plot.
Abduction is utter nonsense from hormone-fuelled beginning to end.
Lautner is naturally likeable and easy on the eye but there is nothing in the script to test his acting mettle or to suggest his character has any emotional depth.
The relationship between Nathan and his parents is preposterous – social services would intervene and arrest Kevin for child abuse – and the romance with Collins’s two-dimensional damsel in distress is flimsy and overly sweet.
Predictable twists in the plot culminate in a final showdown that is tarred by yet more syrupy sentiment.
STAR RATING: **