Review in a Hurry: First, the good news for Team Jacob: Taylor Lautner proves he has the skills to become an action star, portraying a teen who finds out his life is a lie. A realization that leads to much gunplay, martial arts and a bit of parkour thrown in for good measure.
Now the bad news for Team Jacob:
The script, direction, and pretty much everything else feels like Jack Bauer, 24: The Teen Years.
The Bigger Picture: Nathan (Lautner) stumbles upon a missing children website during a late night study session with his boyhood crush Karen (Lily Collins). A sort of social network of milk boxes, the site can take a photo of when the child was abducted and digitally alter their face to show what they might look like today.
And wouldn't you know it, one picture looks a lot like Nathan! Which means his cool mom (Maria Bello) and drill sergeant pops (Jason Issacs) aren't his real parents. Nathan was abducted when he was three!
He barely has time to let the this all sink when men with guns seize his home. Soon, an army of old world Eastern Block assassins (ah, old reliable Russians!) and the CIA (Surveillance monitors! Covert phone calls!) are hot on Nathan's trail. Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver pop up to aid Nathan, but can he really trust anyone ever again?
The early scenes that delve into Nathan's life before everything goes all topsy-turvy have a nice relaxed pace. Lautner lets us in emotionally more than he ever has in the Twilight films. He's easy to root for.
That's the first 20 minutes.
Then things start to focus solely on the whole Nathan-on-the-run angle, and that gets old fast.
Director John Singleton does not have much flair for staging the several car chases and shootouts required for this Fugitive-type tale. Most of the set pieces feel very made-for-TV: strictly medium shots with no real sense of urgency. (Filling it with wall-to-wall bad rock songs ain't helping either.)
The script by first timer Shawn Christensen offers nothing new to the genre of young men in over their heads with bullets & conspiracies, a la Eagle Eye. Killers in black, a secret black box of intel, and way too many cell phones calls, is all so seriously derivative.
Lautner fans won't care though.
He might not be a full-fledged star yet, but it's certainly refreshing to see an actor perform many of his own stunts. As an actor, he's like a young Tom Cruise, all pent up energy waiting to explode but ready to slow things down with a big toothy grin. And hey, Cruise did a number of mediocre movies that made him Top Gun of the '80s, remember?
In a nice homage to that iconic film, Nathan sports a leather bomber jacket and rides a motorcycle. Come to think of it, Lautner would probably make for a good Maverick if the film were ever remade.
The 180—a Second Opinion: In the love department, we do get treated to a hot and heavy make-out session between Lautner and Collins that's sure to satisfy his fans. Finally, he woos a gal that appreciates him!