“It’s not a crime if they can’t catch you.”
Director: Daniel Benmayor
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, Adam Rayner
Synopsis: Wanted by the Chinese mafia, a New York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger.
Our young hero, Cam (Taylor Lautner – Abduction) is one of those hard luck stories upon which so many Hollywood thrillers depend. Young and handsome – in a vaguely vacant kind of way – he’s essentially a good person who has fallen on hard times through no fault of his own. He weaves in and out of the New York traffic with suicidal aplomb in his job as a bike messenger, riding at insane speeds in order to fulfil as many assignments as possible. Cam’s on piece work, you see, and he needs to earn as much as he can to pay off some impatient Chinese gangsters to whom he owes $15,000. So, things initially look bleak for him when he totals his bike after crashing into a girl called Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos – 50/50). But shortly after the accident, a brand new bike is delivered to Cam’s workplace (quite how she knew he worked there is something of a mystery…) which means Cam can continue earning, but which also piques his curiosity.
He scours the city looking for his mystery benefactress, and when he finally tracks her down he finds that she’s a free-runner (also known as tracer), one of those kids who get from place to place by bouncing off buildings and tip-toeing across car roofs like cartoon characters. Intrigued – and apparently forgetting that his continued well-being depends on paying off those Chinese gangsters – Cam embarks on a Rocky-style montage scene which sees him graduate from clumsy amateur to accomplished tracer in a matter of forty seconds or so. Having acquired what he considers the requisite level of skill, Cam then sets off to join Nikki’s gang. It turns out, though, that they’re not quite the free-spirited bunch he initially assumes. In fact, they’re an organised gang of thieves working under the mentorship of an older man named Miller (Adam Rayner)…
It’s surprising that nobody has hit on the idea of building a movie around the discipline of parkour before. The practice of leaping great heights from building to building, and using obstacles as launch pads is a spectacle that provides the ideal backdrop to a fast-moving action picture, which is more or less what Tracers is. Director Daniel Benmayor employs kinetic and dizzying handheld camerawork to capture the danger and excitement of the sport, perhaps realising that, given the rather pedestrian nature of the film’s storyline, it is only in this area that he can really make an impression. The set-up is vaguely reminiscent of Point Break in the way that its fearless criminals are a bunch of youngsters, but Tracers lacks any memorable scenes or potentially iconic images to entrance an audience. It’s not a great movie, but it’s diverting enough while it’s on, and Taylor Lautner gives a vastly improved performance to the one he gave in Abduction. The luscious Marie Avgeropoulos also makes an impression as his feisty love interest.
(Reviewed 26th September 2015)