Tracers is aimlessly plotted, driven only by a cynical, desperate need to financially exploit the parkour craze and Twilight star Taylor Lautner’s now-dwindling popularity.
The film’s overall premise and execution recalls Lautner’s previous action outing, 2011’s Abduction. Although Tracers takes itself slightly more seriously, both films have a proclivity for deception. Similar to how Abduction featured no actual kidnappings, Tracers is barely about parkour; it gracelessly vacillates between a modern-day re-visioning of Oliver Twist, a crime drama, and a stylized action film.
Due to its vague narrative parameters, Tracers is hard to synopsize. The most succinct summary I can gave is this: Lautner plays Cam, an ex-juvenile delinquent who becomes subsumed in the parkour culture. The principle conflict itself is elusive, alternating between Cam’s blossoming love for fellow parkourer and designated Female Love Interest Nikki (Marie Avegeropoulos), attempting to repay his life-threatening debts to the Triad, and using his new wall-scaling talents to perform crimes for Miller (Adam Rayner), the film’s antagonist. The four screenwriters (yes, there are four of them) try out a variety of ideas, but none of them are given enough time to naturally or meaningfully develop.
The main attraction of the film, however, are the stunts, not the story. Although parkour has become an iconic athletic practice, it seems to lack a strong thematic presence in mainstream cinema. Although many films feature stunts that are vaguely parkour, Brick Mansions is the only recent mainstream film that comes to mind that relies heavily on parkour stunts. Whereas Brick Mansions (despite the total absurdity of both its execution and premise) at least offered a critique of gentrification, Tracers completely fails to articulate anything of significance. It’s a hollow shell with some impressive stunts.
However, the film is hindered by the odd aesthetic decision to remove any sense of intimacy from the stunts. It rarely employs point-of-view shots, which are effective in immersing spectators into the experience or ‘thrill’ of parkour. As a result, the stunts rarely achieve anything exciting, as they are often shot from medium to extreme distances. By limiting this intimacy, Tracers makes parkour impossibly boring.
With unengaging stunts and a tangled narrative, Tracers fails to thrill, and offers yet another setback in Taylor Lautner’s fading career.