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First introduced to movie audiences in the hit 2004 French film District B13 and later showcased in such efforts as its 2009 sequel and the American remake Brick Mansions starring the late Paul Walker, the athletic form of motion known as parkour seems to have passed its sell-by date. But the propulsive discipline is once again employed, this time as a showcase for Twilight star Taylor Lautner, in Daniel Benmayor‘s action thriller opening theatrically next month after receiving its premiere exclusively on Direct TV. But while the hunky actor displays impressive physicality while clearly often doing his own stunt work in this fast-paced effort, Tracers is unlikely to scare up much more box-office than his previous solo starring effort, 2011’s poorly received Abduction.
The actor plays Cam, a NYC bike messenger scraping by to make ends meet, living in a garage and deeply in debt to a Chinese gang who clearly mean business if they don’t get their money soon. Cam’s luck gets even worse when his bike is totaled when he runs into the sexy Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos), so he’s understandably intrigued when she gifts him with a new one shortly thereafter.
It turns out that Nikki is connected with a group of parkour enthusiasts to whom Cam is drawn by their impressive athleticism. He starts hanging out with them after practicing his own moves wherever he can, and is eventually welcomed by the group’s leader Miller (Adam Rayner), also Nikki’s boyfriend. He informs the eager new acolyte that parkour is “just a state of mind.”
Cam faces a moral dilemma when he discovers that the group uses their formidable skills to pull off daring heists. Motivated by both his attraction to Nikki and his desperate financial situation, he soon joins in on the nefarious action.
The Point Break-style plotline is merely an excuse for an endless series of scenes showing off the parkour practitioners in action. Fortunately, the sequences are excitingly staged by director Benmayor and cleanly photographed by D.P. Nelson Cragg, Largely avoiding the frenetic editing endemic to so many current action movies, the film showcases its athletic performers in excellent fashion. Even more impressively, Lautner is obviously doing many of the strenuous moves himself, demonstrating an admirable commitment to the extensive training that was obviously required. Another thing in the film’s favor is its extensive use of NYC locations, with the city for once playing itself instead of being impersonated by Toronto.
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Otherwise the proceedings are thoroughly routine, with Matt Johnson‘s screenplay (the thin story took no less than three people to concoct) featuring such predictable elements as a brewing romance between the two leads and a not so surprising plot twist involving one of the main characters. Add to that the underwhelming performances by all involved—Lautner, as usual, is far more compelling in action than speaking—and Tracers seems destined to disappear from theaters quickly without leaving much of a trace.
Production: Saban Films, Cowtown Cinema Ventures, Temple Hill
Cast: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, Adam Rayner, Rafi Gavron
Director: Daniel Benmayor
Screenwriter: Matt Johnson
Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, D. Scott Lumpkin
Executive producers: Robert Cotham, Douglas K. Bratton, Jon Brumley
Director of photography: Nelson Cragg
Production designer: Dan Leigh
Editor: Peter Amundson
Costume designer: Jenny Gering
Composer: Lucas Vidal
Casting: Richard Mento
Rated PG-13, 93 min.
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