There was a moment when watching Tracers that I thought it wasn’t half bad, and was sort of surprised that I wasn’t outright hating it. It gets off to a slow start, but once it gets going it’s kind of like if 1990s rollerblading classic Airborne and The Fast and the Furious had a parkour baby—that would be Tracers. But then in the middle of the movie everything came crashing down and it was a slog to get through, so while I didn’t hate Tracers, I don’t recommend it, either. Starring Taylor Lautner, it’s the barely-there story of a down-on-his-luck bike messenger who joins a parkour gang—I KNOW—because of a pretty girl. From there it’s all criminal hijinks and free-running sprees.
Tracers would have you believe that there are bands of roving free runners sprinting through the city at any given moment, but I’ve only ever seen someone practicing parkour in the streets once. I was in downtown Los Angeles and this guy came dashing out of an alley and tried to post up off of a newspaper dispenser, but he slipped and went flying into a parked car and it was f*cking GLORIOUS. I couldn’t stop laughing for five minutes. Anyway, please let me know if you have witnessed parkour gangs terrorizing your city’s rooftops and fire escapes, because otherwise the premise of Tracers is ludicrous. It’s even stupider than that Joseph Gordon-Levitt bike parkour movie, Premium Rush. At least that movie was dumb AND fun. Tracers takes itself too seriously to be cheesy fun.
Lautner stars as Cam, the hard-luck bike messenger who’s in debt to the local Chinese gang. He joins the parkour gang to earn enough money to pay off his debt, and along the way he falls in love with the parkour gang boss’s girl, Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos). In the first half of the movie, when Tracers is sticking to just the basics in outlining relationships and motivations, it clicks along nicely. But in act two for some reason the director, Daniel Benmayor (who also directed the bluntly titled Paintball), decides that these are people we should care about as anything other than human pinballs bouncing around the city. Suddenly we’re subjected to Cam’s sob story, and totally predictable love-triangle dynamics between Cam, Nikki, and Miller, the parkour boss. None of this is necessary. Cam functions fine as a sketch—he’s in debt, nothing goes his way, fine, great. That’s all we need to know. The point of this movie is not the Sad Story Hour with Cam. It’s watching people commit crime with parkour.
And when they’re doing that, Tracers is tolerable. Benmayor and cinematographer Nelson Cragg (a veteran of Homeland) stage some good-bordering-on-fun action sequences throughout the streets of New York. The camerawork is surprisingly good throughout the movie. What is not good is the return of that f*cking brown filter that everyone suddenly likes and that makes movies looks dingy. Directors must think it makes their movie look GRITTY and REAL, but really it just makes it look like the camera lens has poo flakes on it. This entire movie is sh*t brown. Anyway, as long as Tracers is about the action, it’s kind of okay. Lautner is not a great actor but he’s serviceable enough here, especially since two-thirds of his screen time is stunt work. He truly is Tom Cruise, Jr.—he’s doing a fair amount of those stunts himself. But ultimately there’s not enough action to sustain it and Tracers is not worth your $7 in on demand fees.