Talent Gone Missing in The Abduction of Zack Butterfield


The best thing about The Abduction of Zack Butterfield is TJ Plunkett’s performance as the title character. Teenage Zack is meant to be a golden boy (good student, respects women, fantastic athlete), but early in the film Plunkett shades in slight asshole vibes for the character, which later manifest as steely survival instincts. Zack needs them to outwit April (Brett Helsham), the psycho female soldier who kidnaps him, explaining her action by saying she identifies with female high school teachers who have affairs with male students: “I like men, but they suck. Find yourself a boy, before they become a man, and you make your own man.” As Zack’s frantic parents endure doofus policemen and FBI agents, Zack is handcuffed, physically and emotionally battered, and made April’s uncomfortable confidante. Hers is a sad tale of a cruel mom, a stepdad who loved her (and made her a surrogate son) but not enough, and adult men who mistreated her. Flipping moods at the drop of a hat, April keeps Zack on his toes in what becomes a game of psychological one-upmanship. The script is often ludicrous (gratuitous digs at feminism; muddled commentary on war and the military), the sets look like sets, and the acting—aside from Helsham and Plunkett—doesn’t even rise to the level of student films.