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Entries in abduction (2)

Friday
Sep072012

The Cold Light of Day

The Cold Light of Day isn’t so much a terrible film as it is a terribly bland one. It’s a thriller that thinks it’s enough to have a few pretty people and locations in it to be good and doesn’t bother with things like plot or characterizations. It runs through its quick 93 minute runtime without ever doing much of anything, despite numerous chases, shootouts and fistfights. It’s one of those movies that somehow manages to gather up a decent cast, but doesn’t know what to do with them. By the time it ends, your mind will have done one of two things: wandered off into non-movie related thoughts or drifted to sleep.

The film takes place in Madrid, where Will (Henry Cavill) is meeting up with his family for a vacation. He’s picked up at the airport by his hardened dad, Martin (Bruce Willis), who he doesn’t get along with too well, while the rest of his family, including his mother, brother and his brother’s girlfriend are waiting for him on their boat. After a brief fight and inconsequential plot turns, like Will’s business going bankrupt back home, Will decides to jump off the boat, swim to shore and go into town to buy a few things. When he returns to the beach he emerged from, the boat is gone. When he finds it down shore some time later, he discovers it has been rummaged through and his family is missing. He eventually runs into his dad who admits to him that he’s actually a CIA agent and someone is after him for a briefcase with mysterious contents that he doesn’t have anymore. Unless he can get these people that briefcase, their family is going to die. Martin eventually meets up with his partner, Carrack (Sigourney Weaver), hoping she’ll have it, but he is suddenly murdered by someone off in the distance. All of a sudden, Will is on his own and on a mission to find that briefcase and save his family.

The Cold Light of Day, just to put it into perspective, is the worst thriller to come out since last year’s awful Abduction, which managed to make it to my Worst of the Year list. This isn’t quite that bad and its flaws don’t shine through so noticeably. Most aspects of the film don’t work, but they generally aren’t terrible; the problem is all of those flaws add up to make a mostly dismal film. Bruce Willis, for instance, isn’t necessarily a bad actor, but he’s usually called upon to do little more than smirk and shoot guns, which he does as competently as anyone working in the movies today, but even he looks bored here. He delivers his lines as dryly as he ever has, with so little enthusiasm that when his character is killed off, it’s somewhat of a small relief, in that we won’t have to witness his half-hearted approach to an already underdeveloped character. Henry Cavill, similarly, doesn’t do much to make us care, failing to prove he’s worthy of carrying an entire movie, which doesn’t bode well for next year’s highly anticipated Man of Steel. Cavill is the type of actor, at least as suggested by this movie and last year’s underwhelming Immortals, that thinks speaking louder equates to anger emoting, which isn’t always the case. Hopefully under the guide of visionary and unique director Zack Snyder, he’ll do more than he does here, which is close to nothing.

To be fair, not all of the blame can be placed on him. The direction by Mabrouk El Mechri, whose only other notable film is JCVD, is lost behind the camera, failing to bring forth any sense of excitement or momentum, and the script is a complete mess, putting our hero into so many outlandish situations, it becomes far too unbelievable to follow with any sense of interest. Will is little more than a mild mannered Wall Street trader, but he survives jumping off a building and slamming into the concrete, multiple car and motorcycle crashes, some severe beatings and even a bullet in the back. James Bond wouldn’t have survived this guy’s adventure. To make matters worse, the film builds a mystery around the contents of the briefcase that you want to solve, but then never provides a payoff. When Will asks at the end what was in it, a random government agent answers in a cryptic I’ll-have-to-kill-you-if-I-tell-you sort of way.

When thinking back upon it, it’s an amazing accomplishment to manage to keep the viewer interested in what’s in that briefcase despite their general disinterest in nearly everything that’s happening, yet they still blow it in the end. Here’s a film that shows its cards early on (and whatever it doesn’t show is extremely easy to figure out), but keeps one hidden only to never reveal it. With such a disappointing ending and nothing going on before it, one can’t help but wonder what the point of it all is. The Cold Light of Day is such a jumble of dull action platitudes and listless goings-ons that even its extras are unconvincing—who knew it was so hard to stand idly by a bar?

The Cold Light of Day receives 1/5

Friday
Sep232011

Abduction

Abduction is a movie that knows its audience. With Taylor Lautner in the lead role, it does everything it can to be what can only be described as an action-fueled Twilight. The problem is if you’re catering to the Twilight demographic, you’re not aiming very high. The surprise, however, comes from how utterly incompetent, atrociously stupid and highly unbelievable it is, even when compared to Twilight. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have sat through all three of those, just imagine what’s in store for you here.

Lautner plays Nathan, a mild mannered high school kid who is crushing on the pretty young Karen, played by Lily Collins, and as luck would have it, he is partnered with her on a school project. While researching one night at his house, they stumble on a missing persons website where they find a picture of a child that looks suspiciously like him. After some digging, they realize it is him, so they contact an administrator of the site. What they don’t know is that it’s a mock site created by Kozlow, played by Michael Nyqvist, who has been searching for him for many years and now that he knows his location, the chase is on.

The story goes to great lengths to be interesting and delves deeper than what I’ve detailed above. There are undercover agents posing as parents, a mystery involving Nathan’s actual parents and a journey to uncover what his significance to Kozlow and the US government is. It’s a silly tale built for the tween crowd who have never been properly introduced to a proper thriller before, but its idiocy isn’t its problem. Any story can be told well if the foundation around it is solid, but Abduction is so poorly put together, it makes director Uwe Boll look like a masterful craftsman.

For starters, it must be said that Taylor Lautner, an all around mediocre actor who is wildly inconsistent from scene to scene, is not a leading man. Depending on what he’s doing, he can either look like a veteran or a nervous first time performer. Lautner is a martial arts expert, taking up the craft at an early age, and he works best when he’s punching something. He brings forth an unexpected ferocity to the action scenes. If not for his boyishly good looks, he might even be intimidating. He’s dependable on that level and in an action thriller, that counts for something, but his inability to develop his character, build emotion or create an authentic chemistry with his co-star only goes to show how lousy he can be. He and Collins feel distant in the film, despite spending much of it side by side. No romantic tension is ever built, which makes a random, steamy and aggressively uncomfortable make-out scene in the middle feel forced into place. Lautner simply doesn’t pull this roll off. He may have a voice that is calm and commanding, but his mannerisms are stiff and awkward. He walks into certain scenes like he’s in the middle of a battle with a particularly itchy hemorrhoid.

Of course, if you’ve seen the Twilight films, you know he’s not in this for his talent. He’s in it for the way he looks with his shirt off (and if you don’t know what that looks like, you will within five minutes of watching this film). His lousiness shouldn’t come as a surprise, but you might be taken aback by the amateurish editing that can’t even sync up the action onscreen with the appropriate sound effects, like in one scene where Nathan turns his head to watch a car drive off, despite the noticeable delay of the vrooming engine. It’s a laughable mistake, something that should have been corrected in Editing 101. The rest of the film fares a tad better, though it is perhaps a bit too fast paced for its own good. The fistfights are edited together so choppily, if certain shots were any shorter, they’d be subliminal.

Rounding out this disaster are some of the worst and most distracting extras I’ve ever seen in a movie, though to be fair, they were unpaid. The finale of the film takes place at the Pittsburgh Pirates stadium and the scenes were shot during an actual game with an unsuspecting crowd. Although good in theory—that packed stadium gives some credence to an otherwise ludicrous film—the final product speaks to its failure. The people in the crowd, stunned that Taylor Lautner is being filmed only a few feet away from them, begin to stare, point and take pictures. It’s hard to fault them (besides, they weren’t obligated to act normally), but it’s easy to criticize director John Singleton for not realizing the challenges of shooting such a scene in such a setting.

Abduction is bad, and that’s putting it mildly. Never mind that it clearly doesn’t know the definition of the word “abduction,” the film simply lacks efficiency in front of and behind the camera. The story is hokey and the acting is weak. Similar to how Twilight effectively ruined vampires, Abduction effectively downgrades the action thriller genre. It takes it to a dumbed down, preteen level and it will only be enjoyed by those who are less interested in good filmmaking techniques and more interested in once again seeing Taylor Lautner’s impeccable abs. I can’t say I’m one of those people.

Abduction receives 0.5/5