If you were to ply an alpaca with enough alcohol to convince it to engage in sexual relations with a pile of lumber, the product of that unholy union would probably be Taylor Lautner. Possessing more abdominal muscles than he does facial expressions, the Twilight star does okay-ish in a supporting role where he is required to be as brainless he is topless (and boy, does he hate wearing shirts!), but he is completely lacking of the onscreen charisma required to lead a movie. We saw this clearly with Lautner’s previous starring vehicle, Abduction, which was a complete write-off.
And yet, here we are again, as Hollywood has persisted in giving him another chance as leading man courtesy of Tracers. And I don’t see this attempt faring much better than the first.
In essence a modern-day rip-off of Point Break – but with surfing swapped out for parkour – Tracers follows down-on-his-luck New York bike messenger Cam (Taylor) as he literally runs into a group of rebellious parkour practitioners. Whereas Cam is living in a garage from cheque to cheque and constantly getting beat on for his debts to the local Chinese gangs, this crew enjoy freedom both physical and financial. They have everything he wants, including Nikki (The 100‘s Marie Avgeropoulos), the pretty but sassy squeeze of charismatic group leader Miller (Adam Rayner). And although initially shunned as an outsider, Cam soon ingratiates himself into the group by learning some sweet freerunning moves that would make Jackie Chan jealous.
But it turns out that the group are actually criminals who use their parkour skills to pull off daring heists – I’ll pause here while you facepalm – leaving Cam to pick between trying to be a good guy, and his growing loyalty to the group. Sprinkle in some sad backstory clichés – the exposition of which is usually delivered by the cast with the emotional intensity of plastic patio furniture – and you have a movie that feels like nothing more than a series of scenes that you’ve seen done better, elsewhere.
However, I will admit that watching Tracers was not as wholly torturous an experience as I thought it would be, even if that statement is the equivalent of saying that I’m bleeding way less than I thought I would after being smacked in the head with a brick. In both cases, the brain damage is still going to happen anyway.
The reason for my unexpected sliver of positivity comes courtesy of the film’s parkour chase scenes which newcomer director Daniel Benmayor shoots with an energy that is often adrenalizing (even if these sequences do go on a little too long on occasion). What helps to sell these scenes though is that for the most part, it’s actually Lautner himself performing these incredibly acrobatic feats of fleet-footed fancy. He may not be able to act his way out of a mime’s box, but the young man certainly has some serious physical talents. So too does the naturally athletic Avgeropoulos engage in some convincing building leaping (even if she also drops the ball occasionally on the acting front). This impressive physical effort alone from Lautner and co is enough to warrant Tracers an additional star on this review.
And it’s a good thing too, seeing as how there’s so much else in this movie desperately lowering that score: Levels of “acting” from the support cast that is usually reserved for infomercials about revolutionary new mops, dialogue so physically painful to listen to that your film ticket should come with an aspirin prescription, characters so paper-thin as to be practically translucent and a hackneyed plot that is merely a mish-mash of better films.
While the teen crowd who care more for pretty faces and dubstep soundtracks than such things as filmmaking competence may be more forgiving of these shortcomings – and even there I have my doubts – if you’re looking for more out of this movie then you’re out of luck. You may enjoy all the high-speed running antics but everything else will probably make you run and jump away.
Last Updated: January 29, 2015