Wanted by the Chinese mafia, a young New York City bike messenger down on his luck, who just wants to do good, escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger and her group of Parkour trainers that get him involved in a criminal delivery service for extra money. Written by
Entertaining action scenes but an uninspired script
"Tracers" offers decent parkour action scenes and a better than average BMX action scene. The parkour isn't nearly as well choreographed as the opening scene in "Casino Royale" or most of the scenes in "Banlieue B13," and is often not credible because the characters make seemingly blind leaps on unfamiliar cityscapes, but the scenes are shown in a realistic manner and Taylor Lautner the other actors seem to do much of their own stunt work.
The script brings entirely new dimensions to the concept of "lame." It might pull passing marks as a high school creative writing assignment if it were submitted on a day when the instructor was in a good mood, but fails miserably as a movie script. The film often feels like some insipid urban hip hop dance movie with predominantly lily white protagonists and parkour substituted for dance.
The inciting incident involves the protagonist being distracted by the love interest to the point that he damages his property. In a fit of frustration, he discards it, even though it could easily be repaired and he needs it for work and he's desperate for money, then goes home to his well-equipped garage and does an analogous repair for his landlady's kid. Meanwhile, the girl feels bad because this person she doesn't know damaged property that could be replaced for a hundred dollars or repaired for fifty, so she buys him something to replace it that costs about a thousand dollars and somehow tracks him down and has it delivered to his place of employment.
This is just one example of the muddled motivations of the characters.
There's a Chinese bookie that wants his money right away. Why? It's not as if he needs the money. He should want his money on the street earning vigorish. If the borrower is still paying but running a little late, all the better as it provides an excuse to tack on extra charges.
Why do the hero and heroine fall in love? Because they're both so irresistibly attractive, but have absolutely no other active love interests and both have athletic bodies that they keep hidden beneath baggy sweats. Because they have troubled pasts and limited future prospects. Because a movie like this needs a central love story. The romantic angle seems superficial, to put it mildly.
If you're a criminal, why reveal part of your devious plan in a room that the police undoubtedly have wired for sound?
If you're planning something that requires a team of five people to use parkour to get out of a dangerous situation, wouldn't it make more sense to rehearse in that same area so everybody learns the terrain rather than keeping the location a secret?
If you need to stop the action for a scene with exposition explaining the meaning of the title to the audience, would it make sense to consider a different title?
What does jumping through windows have to do with parkour?
Characters are given flimsy generic backgrounds in a half-hearted effort to make them three-dimensional, but character development is pretty much nonexistent. The parkour moves are not nearly as extreme as in other films, but they're made to seem too easy. We don't see the grueling training that is necessary to master the techniques or any consideration of different approaches to clearing an obstacle. The dangers and need for practice are given lip service in dialogue, but not shown, other than a shot of a scar that has long since healed. Some of the free runners seem to be there to fill the screen, as there is little interaction between the characters. Dialogue is heavy on exposition with little subtext and even less humor. If there is a moral or theme, it would take a far more astute observer than this humble critic to understand it. Parkour is described as overcoming obstacles in your mind, but never becomes an allegory for overcoming the obstacles in life.
The film lacks passion. Not that it should be melodramatic or devolve into pathos, but everyone behaves as if they are on Quaaludes when they aren't scaling walls. The most dramatically intense scene occurs when something happens to a car that hasn't run in a very long time.
The parkour and BMX action scenes are fun to watch but not great. The story is a hackneyed and derivative disappointment. The actors do well with the action scenes and as well as can be expected with the dialogue they're given. The one love scene is shot so modestly it won't need to be edited out for network television and might not even cause much furor if shown in Muslim countries. Production values are adequate, although the use of jiggly-cam in static shots is distracting.
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