Much to my own chargin and in despite of director Camille Delamarre’s efforts to shine a light on late actor Paul Walker’s role in Brick Mansions last year, it left a bitter taste in my mouth and it really boils down to the action. We watch films like this with a huge spotlight planted on what’s being mainly featured, here regarding the parkour sequences, and with director Daniel Benmayor’s Tracers, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to dip back into that particular subgenre lest I waste another two hours of my life on bad filmmaking. Low and behold, it’s forgiveable these days that it takes anyone as long as it does to watch anything we’re not familiar with. I didn’t know from a hill of beans who Benmayor was or if he was really. capable of what was being sampled in the trailers. In large part, he is.
Actor Taylor Lautner is set in the bustling jungle of New York City’s busy streets and claustrophobic alleyways as Cam, a bike messenger who gets wiped out one day and collides with a beautiful freerunner named Nikki, played by Marie Avgeropoulos. The moment passes and Cam is left with a busted bike, and as the film moves forward, we begin to learn just how important his bike is. Alas, with debts piling up left and right, his chance meeting with Nikki grants him an opportunity to join her clandestine group of friends and her brother, all freerunners who operate under the leadership of Miller, played by Adam Rayner. But it’s not all fun and games with the work they do; with a new occupation comes new friendships and loyalities, and new dangers that will threaten not only the fabric of Miller’s team, but will ultimately force Cam to question how far he can really seen before making the biggest leap of his life.
Hands down, the film takes off and takes you right into the action, and it’s not long before we meet Avgeropoulos’s Nikki, which gives us plenty of time to get used to her as the film progresses, as well as the other principles; We meet Snitch (2013) co-star Rafi Gavron who plays Nikki’s mildly apprehensive older brother, Dylan, along with action actors, freerunners Luciano Acuna Jr. as Tate, and Josh Yadon as Jax, and prior to all this, we meet actor Johnny Wu and actress Amirah Vann who play Jerry and Angie in seperate arcs with Cam throughout the film. Really, the only gripe I do have is the obvious clichè romantic subplot that ensues in Matt Johnson’s screeplay, but save for that silliness, everything else holds together very well with most of the performances turning out quite terrific.
The same can absolutely be said for the action, with stunt coordinator Gary Powell’s sequencing and Nelson Cragg’s cinematography. Some of the biggest mistakes a director can make is bad cinematography with shoddy jump cuts when it comes to the action, thus completely throwing the viewer off. Thankfully what we are left with is a team that clearly did its homework and gave us parkour sequences that were great to watch, as well as engaging and thrilling with big stunts that aren’t squandered by poor direction. It’s a healthy mix of parkour and gun battles with a few fisticuffs in between, and all of the stunts you see are as organic as they come – In essence, you are given a film from a director that doesn’t forget his characters aren’t superhuman and can leap between buildings at great distances. The danger is as real as the action and it truly keeps you on the edge of your seat.
I think it’s also prudent to address some issues that people may see with the film’s attention to the parkour scene as an illicit lifestyle – which is far from the case. What we are given in Benmayor’s film is a tale of fiction with an intrigue and poignance that remains grounded in most of its endeavors. As far as freerunning goes, it’s one of the most popular sports in the world and a community all its own, nomadic in nature and a lifestyle that is as healthy and adventurous as one allows it to be, and you needn’t solely take my word for what with YouTube as convenient as it is and all the videos that are on it. Seriously, there’s no shortage on them.
For a sport that could use every bit of screentime it gets, Benmayor treats it with all the respect it deserves, as well as the stunt performers who stick their necks out to showcase their amazing feats. And above all else, we get a watchable movie with ample drama and a little heart and soul to boot, with a finish that does leave a little bit more to be desired in its delivery, but brings things home accordingly nonetheless.
Films like Tracers aren’t made very often, and the consequences are largely damaging what with all the films that we are left with by directors who leave moviegoers little to hope for. Moreover, it’s the kind of film that we’ve largely been asking for from filmmakers with Lautner in a role succeding Abduction (2011) that allows him to flex his muscles and on both acting as well as physical prowess, and it can’t be said enough just how much he needs more roles like this.
No, the film isn’t perfect, but you will be guaranteed one of the best freerunning heist thrillers you will ever see in your lifetime. And so, if by some measure you have leapt over this film since its release, by all means, double back and don’t continue your moviegoing experience without it, or you will be left hanging. Trust.