Directed by Daniel Benmayer and written by no less than five writers, Tracers is a Taylor Lautner vehicle that features the twenty something actor as a bike messenger in debt to the Chinese mafia. He falls in love with an older woman with a Parkour habit and sticky fingers. This 2015 film feels like a combination of Mirror’s Edge, sans the cool POV aspect, and District B13, sans the cool plot.
Lautner, who captured the hearts of young tween’s everywhere in the Twilight franchise, has had problems finding roles that bring out the best in him. In Tracers Taylor does a good job as the young man whose criminal past and large debt to the “Tongs” has him trapped in a dead end job and struggling to meet the payments he owes loanshark Chen.
At the start of the film, Cam (Lautner) is on a delivery when he is distracted by a group of black clad people who Parkour their way across his path. One, a young woman (Marie Avgeropoulos) collides with Cam and his bike. He is injured and his mode of transport is ruined. After signing over his paycheck to Chen’s collector, Cam learns that a woman dropped off a new bike for him at work. Spending a few days looking for his benefactor he finds her. The woman’s name is Nikki and she belong to a Parkour gang who steal for a Fagin type character named Miller (Adam Rayner).
The main problem with this Parkour “caper” film is the total lack of chemistry between Lautner and his then girlfriend Avgeropoulos. The two have since broken up and if their real life relationship was this lackluster it is surprising that they managed to stay together for 18 months. There are secondary problems, such as the “magic” pistol that Miller uses in the scene where he means to kill Cam.
Another is the “dirty cop” scenario where it is revealed that the guy orchestrating the whole Parkour crime wave (Miller) is a DEA agent who can get his employees a “get out of jail free card.” Sadly the whole thing fails to ignite. The most fascinating thing about Tracers is not in front of the camera but behind it. The amount of stunt performers used is staggering and a total of 45 names appear on the credits.
It must have seemed like a great idea to someone for the athletically inclined Lautner to star in this Parkour heavy feature. Certainly Taylor has no real problems convincing us that he can do the urban sport. That they use it to commit crimes is the biggest letdown the script had, apart from the aforementioned “flat” romance between the two characters of Cam and Nikki.
Part of the problem is that both the performers seemed hard pressed to show any real emotion or feeling for one another. Avgeropoulos spends most of the film with a snarl on her face and acting pretty snotty. Lautner looks either shifty or secretive, it was hard to tell, and while he acquitted himself very well in the fight sequences and the Parkour runs he was not given a whole lot to do in the area of character development.
The other issue with Tracers is that the Parkour ship set sail some time ago. It was used as a major portion of the French film District B13 and in Mirror’s Edge, an Electronic Arts game, it was the players privilege to Parkour though the whole game which is played from the main character’s point of view. Since then it has been used to the maximum extent possible and most effectively as the beginning sequence in the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale with the new Bond Daniel Craig.
At the start of the film, there is one or two places where the camera gives us the Parkour POV, a’la Mirror’s Edge. Sadly these two instances are not repeated which could have made the movie that bit more exciting and possibly covered up a multitude of sins, such as plot holes and a storyline that never really convinces, like the romance between Nikki and Cam.
While Tracers is not boring, it does not flow. Ironic when one considers that Parkouring is all about flow. Whether the fault lies with the fledgling director Benmayor, this is his third feature length film, or of the plethora of writers; proving that too many cooks do spoil the broth, is hard to tell. Either way, the lack of chemistry and the poor plot does not bode well for Taylor Lautner or anyone else in this film.
Available on US Netflix at the moment, this is a 3 out of 5 star film, it gets an extra star just because Parkour is pretty excellent to watch.