On some level, I almost feel sorry for Taylor Lautner. Not that he’s an underrated talent who doesn’t deserve the critical mockery he receives every time he steps in front of a camera. No, he’s indeed a horrible actor. That much is clear. Nope, I feel bad for Lautner because the inexplicable success of the ‘Twilight’ franchise made him think that he’s a movie star.
Sure, most people knew that those ‘Twilight’ movies were a joke, but with that much success it would be easy for any actor to convince himself that the haters were wrong. Well, now ‘Twilight’ is over and Lautner has to prove himself as an actor with minimal skills and no support from the industry. That leads to dumb movies like ‘Tracers’ that don’t have a hope of finding success. Maybe one day Lautner will score a hit by accident, but for now it certainly looks like the guy is stuck headlining increasingly small and stupid movies until he finally loses his last few shreds of commercial viability. Poor guy. I bet he thought he’d have an actual career.
Presumably, ‘Tracers’ is a period piece set five or so years ago, because it takes place in a world where everyone thinks that mountain bikes and parkour are the hippest things on the planet. (Or maybe the script has just been collecting dust for that long; it’s hard to say.) Lautner stars as Cam, a New York bike delivery dude who’s super good at his job and super bad at luck. He lives in a garage and is deep in debt to a gangster for money he borrowed to save his dying mother’s house. Things aren’t going well and the kid needs cash.
All seems like it might finally be right in the world when Cam sees the beautiful Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos) bouncing around the city with her parkour buddies. Cam instantly falls in love with the girl because she’s beautiful and clearly flexible, so he starts practicing parkour in the hopes of winning her heart through jumping across rooftops. Eventually, Nikki’s gang welcomes Cam into the fold, and he starts doing illegal parkour deliveries along with them. He quickly earns all the money he needs as well as Nikki’s eye, but unfortunately the gang is run by, like, a totally evil guy played by Adam Rayner (‘Tyrant’), who has also locked in on the girl. Oh boy! Sounds like trouble, right? Could good possibly conquer evil or love conquer all? Who knows?! And also, yes. Those things will definitely happen.
Let’s first discuss what the movie does right. It won’t take long. Director Daniel Benmayor and his team at least decided to favor physical action and stunts for their parkour/bike-riding stupidity. That’s kind of nice. In an action cinema landscape dominated by CGI tomfoolery, it’s refreshing to see actual humans doing actual stunts. Unfortunately, all the parkour shenanigans on display here stopped being fresh and exciting a few years ago. You’ve see it all before, only this time it’s been shot very haphazardly with little sense of pacing or payoff. The action sequences basically comprise of a bunch of pretty people jumping around without much cinematic flair or purpose. It gets boring fast, especially since the filmmakers and stunt folk keep repeating the same tricks endlessly.
All of that might be forgivable if the movie had a decent story or characters to contain the action, but there’s none of that. The plot starts off in an idiotic fantasyland where people parkour all the time for kicks and then eventually devolves into a bunch of double-crossing crime movie clichés. Had the picture been pitched like a live action ‘Looney Tunes’ cartoon, like 2012’s big city biking epic ‘Premium Rush’ was, the whole mess might have been passable as dumb fun. But no, everything is done very sincerely to suck all the fun out of the room. Also unlike ‘Premium Rush’, this flick has no charismatic actors to make the idiocy worth watching. It’s a collection of indistinguishable pretty folk spewing out lifeless dialogue.
Oh, Taylor Lautner. It’s genuinely remarkable how little on-screen charisma this guy has. Sure, he does some of the stunts himself, and I suppose that’s admirable. But whenever he has to open his mouth or act, he’s about as charming as a six foot stack of cheese, and his performance only stinks slightly less than one. Admittedly, Lautner isn’t as embarrassingly out of his depth here as he was in the truly abysmal ‘Abduction’. He’s gotten ever-so-slightly better at feigning that he knows how to act, but he’s still one of the least charismatic action stars around these days, even including direct-to-DVD time-wasters.
Make no mistake, ‘Tracers’ is a bad movie that won’t do Lautner’s career any favors. However, if there is one slight silver lining, it’s not the worst movie clogging up the multiplex right now, and there’s not even a slight chance that it’ll be a surprise hit. ‘Tracers’ will be forgotten just as quickly and unceremoniously as it arrived. Hopefully, someday soon we’ll be able to say the same thing about Taylor Lautner as well.