This movie is about, but not really about, Patty Hearst’s kidnapping. First, a quick refresher: In 1972, an erotic novel called Black Abductor was published. It was about a young heiress who gets kidnapped by a group of anti-government radicals. The heiress eventually joins the radicals in their cause. In 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by a group of anti-government radicals, and we know how that story goes. In 1975, Abduction was released. The details of the Hearst kidnapping were still unfolding as this movie was in production, but who cares, there was money to be made! Since the movie was an adaptation of the novel, the filmmakers could skirt the Hearst family lawyers and capitalize on the scandal. This is Joseph Zito’s directorial debut; he later went on to direct a bunch of movies we love and one we love a little less: The Prowler, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Invasion U.S.A. and Missing in Action. Speaking of which, you know what’s missing in this movie? Action.
A woman named Patricia Prescott is at home with her boyfriend, who looks like a young Stephen King. They talk about regular boring couple stuff: Do you like my blouse, can I borrow your car, when are you going to propose, I can’t help that I’m an heiress to a family fortune. They smooch and get busy on an orange sofa. As soon as her underpants come off, thugs come in and beat up her boyfriend. But we don’t get to see much because it goes down behind a piece of furniture. I should note that after the beatdown, the boyfriend still looks like Stephen King. The thugs tie up Patricia and kidnap her. She is still not wearing any underpants.
Now the first rule of kidnapping, and really, all crime in general, is to hide your identity. This is precisely why stores sell balaclavas and rubber Richard Nixon masks—for the sole purpose of aiding and abetting criminals. But the kidnappers in this movie decide that masks are totally unnecessary. They brazenly walk out with a blindfolded, pantsless Patricia in broad daylight and parade her past a bunch of bros moving into a bro house. It’s hard to say whether the kidnappers give zero shits or if it’s just amateur night.
The criminals discuss what to do with Patricia. Two men decide to tape themselves as they double-rape her and then send the tape to her wealthy father, who watches it endlessly. It’s dark and sleazy, nice and easy. The thugs demand the total destruction of the Park Towers apartment complex or else Patricia gets snuffed.
Right now, Brooklyn is a full load of luxury condos. Everywhere you look, there they are, taking a dump on the city’s skyline. They’re ugly and expensive and no one wants to live there because they’re ugly and expensive. My point is that I understand the kidnappers’ demands, I do. The people don’t need fancy condos. You know what they need? A café where you can play with kittens. That, and more pizza. There can never be enough of either of those things.
Patricia pleas with her father on another tape, but not before she’s forced into a sensual and loving, if not a little stingy, lesbian encounter. Her father watches the encounter over and over again because that is what caring fathers do. Meanwhile a hard case FBI agent (Lawrence Tierney!) questions “a campus radical” with connections to the suspects. There is some righteous drivel and then a beatdown, which is, once again, blocked behind a piece of furniture. And what I figured out is that while this movie shows us full frontal nudity and tear-stained rapey times and erotic lady-on-lady sexiness, any sort of beatdown is hidden from our puritanical eyes.
My biggest issues with Abduction are the arduous scenes where people talk about things you would actually like to see. Patricia’s boyfriend goes into agonizing detail about how a friend was in a three-way with two dudes at a party and everyone watched. Why aren’t we seeing this? Why must this young Stephen King whom I most savagely want to beat down—in front of a piece of furniture—tell this story instead? And tell it so slowly? The actors in this film talk so slowly you want to shake them and scream GET TO THE POINT. It’s like talking to an old lady at the grocery store who tells you what she would like to make for dinner, and how she’s going to make it, and how she used to make it for her daughter, the one who never calls her, and you’re standing there with a melting pint of ice cream wondering why exactly she’s talking to you. Lady, do you need help with something?
But what Abduction does do well is sleaze and mood. The pace is relaxed and narcotic and everyone is very laid back about the whole affair—the kidnappers, the worried parents, the victim. Everyone is stoned and not really worried about much. But soon the unhurried vibe turns into lethargy, which then turns into boredom. Perhaps the greatest contribution of Abduction is that it paved the way for other sleazier Patty Hearst-sploitation films. I haven’t seen them all, but I do know how they end.