As I was shuffling through the Netflix Basement, this forgotten nugget of cinema popped up. Everybody’s favorite Wolfman from Twilight, Taylor Lautner, as a parkour bank robber? What could be a stupider premise for a movie? Now I’ve GOT to see this. He is the Wolfman, right? I never saw Twilight.
Unfrozen Cro-Magnon Actor Taylor Lautner is one of those insane New York bike messengers they keep making movies about. We intercut his crazy BMX-ing around town with four guys and a girl (or rather, their stunt doubles) running across buildings doing parkour. Two of the goofiest looking hobbies that Hollywood movies keep telling us are cool are mushed together in one amazing film. Then their worlds collide and they have a meet-cute when Lautner flips his bike over a stopped cab and crash-lands onto Nikki, the parkour girl. See, this is one of those kinds of movies where a 175 pound dude can drive his bike into, and over a taxi at 30 miles an hour and crash land on a 100 pound girl, and they both just shake it off like it’s nothing. Nikki runs off without giving him her name and Taylor spends a montage or two looking for her in all the grooviest parkour hang-out spots.
There are some sub-plots galore that I need to get out of the way, since the movie is about 90% parkour-ing and only10% plot, all of it in the beginning.
So Taylor owes money to Korean loan sharks. He also rents the guest room from a nice African-American mother and her skateboarding son. Lautner has a cool hot rod he’s working on that he refuses to sell, even though he has money problems. Then after the taxi crash, he has no bike. But then his boss tells him to come down to work because some girl dropped off a brand new bike. Does any of this affect the story beyond the first 10 minutes? Well, the Korean loan sharks subplot does a little, but no. It’s all forgotten, as Lautner doesn’t even do bike messenging after he starts his parkour-ing. The movie posits running around and jumping over parked cars and mailboxes as the ultimate form of transportation. The movie is lying.
So Taylor finally tracks Nikki down, but she runs away from him through traffic, then they both run up a crane and have a really stupid conversation at the top.
Nikki: “What do you want?”
Lautner: “To thank you.”
Nikki: “For what?
Launter: “For getting me the bike you got me.”
This conversation is five minutes longer than it needs to be.
Dude: “Hey, random girl I crashed into but didn’t injure, thanks for the new bike.”
Girl: “You’re welcome.”
To prolong this pointless scene the dullard asks her, “How did you learn how to do parkour?”
Then there’s a quickie parkour training montage, and now Lautner learns how to do parkour. And before you can say Point Break, Lautner is part of a parkour heisting gang led by the un-Swayze-like Miller, played by Adam Rayner. I’m not being mean to Mr. Rayner, but as a movie star, he can’t hold Patrick Swayze’s jock so there’s a charisma hole in the middle of this movie.
As another example of drawing out this wisp-thin story, during a trial heist Lautner is chased by gun-toting masked parkour guys. After a long, pointless parkour chase through an empty mall, Lautner is shocked to find it’s just his buddies testing him. Idiot, how do you not know the masked parkour masters chasing you are your parkour heist buddies?
Then Miller says some fake-Swayze as Bodhi type BS like, “This whole thing, parkour, free running, tracing, whatever you want to call it, is just a state of mind. The real obstacles are not out there, they’re in your head.” Seems to me like a crotch high parking meter is a bigger obstacle in reality than psychologically.
Nikki is Miller’s sister, so she has to play aloof. But then she follows Lautner home and they have a tame, G-rated sex scene in a stairwell that you know is filthy and smells like cigarette butts and pee. Very sexy, movie. Not to mention that after he’s kicked out of his apartment, Lautner lives in a tent on a roof of an abandoned building. You know that dude does not smell minty fresh.
Lautner, Nikki, and Miller have many boring conversations delivered in monotone. Eventually the plot comes full circle when Lautner takes part in knocking over the very same Korean loan sharks he owes money to, but there’s no money in the safe because Miller is an idiot and terrible at planning heists, and Lautner is caught by random police persons. Then the movie gets really stupid. Spoiler alert: for no purpose at all they flip the Point Break template and now Miller is an undercover cop, but he’s dirty and he’s pulling off parkour heists. This does not affect the movie plot at all, it just renders it even more stupid.
What I’m having trouble understanding is the screwed up morality of the movie. It’s not screwed up in an interesting shades of gray way, though. It wants us to side with Lautner who’s a “cool dude,” only committing robberies to pay off his debts. And the parkour gang are supposed to be awesome buds who like to hang out and do free walking together, and drink lite beer and go to discos. Miller is a tool, cock-blocking Lautner from getting with Nikki, so we don’t like that guy. But the Korean bookies are noble criminals? Because it’s supposed to be okay when, Spoiler Alert, they let Lautner out of his debt at the end for helping them out. The filmmakers cheat because they never actually show these guys committing the robberies. And when they finally do show the heist at the Korean loan sharks, they don’t get anything. The tagline for the movie is, “It’s not a crime if you don’t get caught.” It’s more like, “It’s not a crime if we don’t see them actually take anything.”
If you think parkour is totally rad, then this movie is for you. If you think free walking is a hobby for morons in hoodies who want to blow out their knees by the age of 25, then you will enjoy the endless scenes of ridiculous parkour as much as I did. If you want bad acting, bad dialogue, and a plot so stupid that it makes you smack your head in astonishment, then Tracers is your kind of movie. And hey, it’s better than Twilight, I bet.