Taylor Lautner stars as a somewhat angry teen who is working on a Sociology assignment with his long-time neighbour (and crush) Lily Collins. Surfing a missing persons’ website, they come across a photo that looks alarmingly like Lautner! Is it a mistake? Are mom (Maria Bello) and dad (Jason Isaacs) really his mom and dad? Before he has much time to take any of this in, some scummy Russian baddies (led by the clearly non-Russian Michael Nyquist) have somehow gotten a hold of Lautner’s whereabouts and attack his home. He and Collins are forced to go on the run, and even the CIA (led by Alfred Molina) appear to be after him. What do they want from him? Sigourney Weaver plays Lautner’s only real ally, his shrink. Denzel Whitaker plays Lautner’s fake ID-dispensing friend, and a guy who sounds a whole lot like Dirty Steve turns up for a cameo near the end in a tiny but important role.
“2 Fast 2 Furious” might well be the worst film in the once promising career of director John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood”, “Higher Learning”, “Rosewood”), however, this completely moronic and clichéd action-thriller from 2011 shows just how little the guy cares anymore. This hack-job literally could’ve come from anyone, and it really seems as if Singleton has become a director-for-hire. Or maybe just a sell-out. Perhaps he saw dollar signs in the chance to work with a ‘hot’ property like Lautner. But hack sell-out or not, Singleton should’ve known better than to allow this ancient screenplay by Shawn Christensen (whose only previous work has been on short films) to make it to the screen, and he certainly should’ve been able to tell early on that lead actors Taylor Lautner and Lily ‘I clearly take after my mother’ Collins are completely out of their (shallow) depth here. Meanwhile, it might seem to be a sure-fire hit to give Lautner his own vehicle, but the thing is, the “Twilight” series required little more of him than his physical presence and abs. Being a leading man, even in the action genre, requires a little more, and on evidence here, Lautner’s not got anything else to give (Personally I still think he has more charisma than Robert Pattinson, and unlike Kristen Stewart he knows how to smile, but let’s not go there). And because the action genre is primarily one enjoyed by men, they’re not going to care how hot Lautner’s abs are in order to compensate for anything else he lacks. Admittedly the film is more thriller than action film, but I still feel like the material would be of little interest to Lautner’s niche audience (Then again, the “Bourne” series’ box-office receipts would suggest not much of a gender divide, and this film is in a slightly similar vein- or at least wants to be so perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill).
I feel a bit sorry for the kid, actually, because the film completely exposes him and not just in a way that his tweeny-bop female audience would like. He seems perplexed by the very notion of emoting on screen, or at the very least, he appears to be completely uncomfortable with the idea of letting himself be shown as vulnerable, emotionally. Fame is fleeting, Taylor, so either you need to take acting lessons or get over whatever shyness you have, because after the last “Twilight” film, this shit just isn’t going to fly anymore. You’ll become the next Jonathan Taylor Thomas, otherwise. There’s another big problem with Lautner’s casting, though. I understand that he is white and was born to white parents, but c’mon, if you didn’t already know that, you’d assume that he was either Hawaiian or Native American, right? He sure is awfully tan, isn’t he? And yet here he is, cast as someone meant to be the son of Maria Bello and Jason Isaacs. Wouldn’t the obvious lack of physical resemblance be your almost immediate tip-off that something is wrong here? No, he needed a missing person’s website for the penny to drop. Really? I’m sorry, but I’d have an easier time believing Draco Malfoy was the son of Isaacs and Bello, than Lautner. Even when we find out the truth about his lineage in the film, it still doesn’t convince because white or not, he looks absolutely nothing like anyone said to be his parent. Just because something is true, doesn’t mean it actually convinces on screen in a movie, and that proves to be the case here. I just never bought it, he is miscast.
OK, so I’ll stop bashing Lautner for now, because the film has a lot more problems outside of him. The script is absolutely appalling. The film’s basic premise involves a truly awful contrivance that for me it never recovered from. OK, so Lautner is doing a school assignment with Lily Collins and the topic they choose is I guess missing persons or some such. They access a missing person’s website, and after clicking through maybe three photos, up springs the one that apparently belongs to Lautner. Remember when I talked about a truly awful contrivance? Make that several. The whole premise of the film hangs on Lautner being given a specific class assignment (I can’t remember if the teacher chose the topic or the students, but if it’s the former, then they must be in on the conspiracy!) that leads him to a specific website, and then he specifically finds the page that is all about him, and this alerts the bad guys to his existence. I never even understood if the bad guys (or at least one set of bad guys) actually set up the site themselves or were simply able to hack into it, to be honest. But no matter whether they set it up themselves or not, it still begs the question: What would’ve happened if the kid never accessed the site? What if he was never given the assignment or chose something else? What if he gave up looking at it before he saw his photo? The answer, of course, is that there would be no movie. That isn’t always a problem, sometimes you just go with the flow, but here it was way too much to ask. It’s a fatal blow before the film really even kicks into gear. Then again, we’re talking about a film called “Abduction” which fails to feature anything even resembling an abduction. What the fuck? How the hell did no one think of that before it was released? So clearly, the film has its issues by the very title alone, let alone anything that comes after it.
Another element of contrivance, albeit a smaller one, involves the Sigourney Weaver character. Are we honestly expected to swallow that a CIA agent familiar with Lautner’s parents would be able to become Lautner’s shrink? How long has she been his shrink for? My guess is, she started being a shrink in her first scene in the film. Is she even really a psychiatrist? If not, I sure hope she didn’t prescribe Lautner any drugs. Might get into trouble for that. It just seems like an obvious plot contrivance to me, and not something truly organic to the film and its characters. The thing is, if the film were good in other respects, I might not even have picked up on such a thing until after the film was over.
The use of technology in this film just didn’t convince me at all. I was convinced by “Enemy of the State” despite being a bit far-fetched, but like the awful “Eagle Eye”, the use of modern technology here seemed so far over-the-top that I never bought it. Whether it’s possible to commandeer someone’s webcam or whatever, the fact is, Singleton never convinced me of it. I am, however, convinced that Mr. Christensen has seen a lot of movies. I know this because this film basically rips off “Hanna” and “Little Nikita”, whilst also containing elements of “Eagle Eye” and “Enemy of the State”, among others. The “Hanna” connection is especially strong just minus the fairy tale overtones and a male lead instead of female (Bad guys/spooks try to get at supposedly dangerous rogue agent father by targeting their kid, who has in some way been trained for combat). The problem there being that the father-daughter connection in “Hanna” was strong, thus it made the situation more plausible than it is in this film. Meanwhile, given that “Little Nikita” was a vehicle for the then young and hot teen icon River Phoenix, it’s pretty bloody cynical for Christensen and Singleton to try the same trick with Mr. Lautner here (Mind you, “Little Nikita” wasn’t any good, so perhaps it wasn’t so much cynical as stupid).
The relationship between Lautner and Collins also did not work for me. For a film that takes so long to get past the introductory stage, the introductory scenes between these two characters sure are clunky and ill-defined. At first he seems like a bitter ex-boyfriend, in addition to being a drunken douche. But then you find out that they are simply long-time neighbours and he has a crush on her. When you combine some of his douchy jealous behaviour with the fact that he’s seeing a shrink for anger issues, it not only makes their relationship hard to get a handle on, it makes Lautner seem a bit stalker-ish, too. And he’s our leading man, for chrissakes! The fact that Collins (the poor man’s Nina Dobrev- think about that, one!) looks completely uninterested in Lautner doesn’t help, either. He’s terrible, but she’s a total bore.
The action isn’t boring, I must say, in fact it’s well-choreographed and exciting. It’s just entirely absurd. Having Lautner trained in martial arts by Isaacs is one thing, I was almost able to go along with that despite him still basically being a kid yet acting like Jet Li. No, I’m more talking about the bad guys. You’d think secrecy would be a big concern for the bad guys, but in every action scene they act in the most violent and attention-seeking manner possible. Pulling out a gun in a crowded public place in broad daylight, for instance. There’s just no way that these guys would be so smart in some areas (tracking Lautner) yet so monumentally stupid and reckless in others.
Meanwhile, as much as Maria Bello and Sigourney Weaver are fine here, they’re also wasted in trivial roles. They fare better than Alfred Molina, however, whose very casting and physical presence seem too heavy-handed. Perhaps he’s trying to pick up Lautner’s slack (and Singleton certainly isn’t stupid for casting capable thespians to surround Lautner), but his over-the-top approach is as silly, ultimately, as the film itself. Also, what the hell has he done to his face? He joins a list of actors including Rupert Everett, Sela Ward, Sylvester Stallone, and Renee Zellweger whose physical features (notably the face) end up distracting you from anything else. The cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr. (“Posse”, “The 13th Warrior”, “When a Stranger Calls”) is no help, though. In addition to trying to connect things to the “Twilight” series by featuring as many overhead forest shots as possible, Menzies makes the film as unattractive as humanly possible. Hell, he even manages to make Lautner’s tan disappear for stretches at a time, suggesting several seasonal changes in the space of 100 minutes or so (or at least intermittent visits to the tanning salon during filming). Gauzy and headache-inducing at times, he’s also taken up J.J. Abrams’ fetish for lens flares, to a ridiculous and utterly pointless degree here.
I’m sorry, but this is just an alarmingly poor film from a guy who has clearly given up caring about his reputation. It may not be as mind-numbingly empty as “2 Fast 2 Furious”, but it’s still quite an embarrassment, and totally nondescript from a filmmaker who used to at least leave his own distinctive print on a film. Oh, and Twihards, you know where to send your hate mail to.