Director: Daniel Benmayor / Writers: Leslie Bohem, Matt Johnson, Kevin Lund, T.J. Scott / Starring Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos and Adam Rayner
Parkour practitioner to Cam: This is dangerous stuff. You can get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing.
TRACERS opens with a scene that always gives me heart palpitations whenever I experience this in New York City – watching a bike messenger weave in and out of traffic at a ridiculously high speed. As Cam (Taylor Lautner) dodges buses, cabs, pedestrians and limos, the energetic start to this movie is irreparably damaged once he and Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos, probably best known for her role in 50/50) meet in a cloying romcom kinda way. She destroys his bike, his only means of financial support. Rather than find new means of employment to help pay the rent he is behind on, restore an antique Pontiac GTO left to him by his father and, most importantly, repay the $15K he owes to a Chinese loan shark before they do nasty things to him, Cam focuses all his attention on finding Nikki and the dudes she hangs out with that practice parkour.
Developed in France in the 1980’s, parkour is a discipline where one gets from point A to point B by using only their body as they propel forward by jumping, vaulting, swinging, climbing, rolling, running and mantling (to name but a few and each of these activities get at least five minutes of their very own screen time) until they arrive at their destinations without injury. It was an urban craze many years ago and TRACERS could have been a hit had it been released when parkour was at its peak. Well, maybe not. There is not one redeeming quality in this mess of a movie, except for those who want to see Lautner’s pouty lips, rock hard abs and perky nips.
Once Cam hooks up with Nikki and the dudes, he meets Miller (Adam Rayner), their charismatic, older leader. We are now in Dickens territory, Oliver Twist to be more precise. Miller is Fagan and they rob things for him. Once Cam is tested and demonstrates his abilities to run, jump, swing, et cetera with expertise, as if that is something one can just pick up, there’s a big heist in Chinatown. In fact, there are so many references to CHINATOWN in this movie, I was half expecting a character to cry out “My mother. My sister.” The heist is compromised, a dude dies, Cam and Nikki get it on, a big secret is revealed and it’s time for redemption.
Director Daniel Benmayor, whose previous films I’ve never heard of, thinks hyper jerky camera movements with a pulsating score will enthral action movie fans. It doesn’t. His casting decisions seem to be based on who would look great in an Abercrombie & Fitch print ad, as opposed to hiring actors who know how to emote; Avgeropoulos is so amateurish in one scene where she is lying to Miller that a blind man would demand another take. In the end, the only impetus TRACERS inspired in me was to parkour the hell out of there once the movie ended. (My apologies if I stepped on your head.)
(The 1/2 is for Lautner’s abs.)