Wanted by the mafia, a new York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Have you ever watched those parkour videos featuring incredible feats of aerial acrobatics? Pretty amazing stuff when you get right down to the athleticism involved and the skill and ability on display. It's fine entertainment for about five maybe seven minutes max. After that point the music in those videos starts to make your brain numb and the thrills of people jumping, falling, swinging, and flipping off obstacles starts to lose it's luster a bit. Now imagine one of those videos stretched to 94 minutes, and you basically have 'Tracers' in a nutshell.
Cam (Taylor Lautner) is a bike messenger who is a whole heap of trouble with the Chinese mafia. He took out a big loan and needs to repay it, only he doesn't have the bread to do it. At the same time, he's trying to put the finishing touches to his vintage GTO and needs parts. The bike messenger gig should be enough to cover all that, the only problem is his bike was mangled to hell and gone when Cam crashed into a cab after Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos) parkoured her way into oncoming traffic.
When a new bike arrives at work for him from the mystery lady - Cam sets out to find her and her crew. How could she afford to buy him a new bike on the spot like that? It turns out she's part of an underground parkour gang that pulls off scores banking big bucks in the process. Cam naturally sees the end to his financial woes and wants to get in on the action as he's a bit of a dare devil in his own right. Nikki is cool with it, but the group's leader Miller (Adam Rayner) isn't keen on the idea of bringing an outsider into the fold. As Cam works on his skills, the stakes get bigger while the scores the group takes down get larger netting more cash, and unfortunately for Cam - net more trouble than he needs.
If you think you've seen this movie, you probably already did if you saw 'Premium Rush.' 'Tracers' is virtually the same plot only slightly reworked so it sort of looks and feels "new." The only problem with 'Tracers' is that there is a plot. I know that sounds like a contradiction considering every movie should have one and a compelling one at that, but in this case, whenever the movie tries to create a story the action grinds to a dead halt and the thing becomes a boring mess.
I can't necessarily fault the actors here. Granted performances aren't the greatest, Lautner has the chops to convey emotion when he wants to, but this movie doesn't really give the actors anything to work with. It's all jumps and flips filmed with a GoPro with small breaks to try and make you care about Cam's plight. Since you never really get a sense that he's ever in much danger from the mafia, it's not like they're threatening to break his thumbs like the mafia did to unfortunate mooks in 'Rocky,' they only give him stern disappointed warnings. In fact the first initial "warning" confrontation they have with Cam is almost cute rather than menacing. Part of making an action movie is establishing the stakes. The audience needs to know the hero has something to lose and is willing to lose said thing in order to achieve his goals. Paying rent on time and fixing an old GTO just don't make Cam a compelling character. On top of that, we hardly get enough time with the other characters to care about them or feel like anyone has anything important to lose, let alone propel them towards a common goal.
While the stunts are incredibly impressive, and it does appear that Lautner did many of them himself - they hardly make for full film experience. Like I said at the outset - 'Tracers' is like watching a 94 minute YouTube stunt video. If you're a stunt junkie, you should be fairly entertained by this one. If you're after interesting story coupled with well executed action - I'd suggest you stick with 'Premium Rush.' I think the frustrating thing about this movie is that with a little more time on the script, it could have been good. The blueprint is there but the fine lines haven't been filled in enough.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tracers' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Lionsgate and pressed on a Region A locked BD25 disc. Housed in a standard case, the disc comes with a Digital HD UV code.
While the movie may not be exactly amazing, the digitally shot stunt photography can be pretty thrilling to see - if you don't mind the obvious clarity differences. With this 2.40:1 1080p transfer 'Tracers' is a bit of a mixed bag. Shot digitally, most of the film looks absolutely fantastic utilizing the bright New York scenery creating outstanding detail and a tangible sense of depth to the image. Where things get a little shaky (in more ways than one) is with the stunt photography. Clearly lower resolution cameras - probably GoPros - were used for these scenes so it's glaringly obvious as the image becomes noticeably softer losing fine detail and creating a flurry of motion blur. Aside from that most of the image here is quite pleasing - it's just inconsistent. Colors also suffer from this digital format shift, where in one shot their spot on and have plenty of primary pop, the handheld shots look drab and washed out. Black levels and shadows suffer the same circumstances. One second they're inky black with plenty of separation the next they're either crushed or have blown out contrast.
'Tracers' wins big with its DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. Considering the type of movie this is you need a dynamic audio track to capture everything on screen. Imaging is just awesome as sounds circle around the channels. Right from the outset with the high-speed New York traffic footage as Cam weaves around cars you get an amazing sense of atmosphere and scenery. And that stays true for most of the action sequences as well so you're never at risk of becoming bored. Quieter moments work well here as levels have been adequately equalized so the sudden pick ups and drop offs aren't jarring nor do they force you to ride your volume controls. All around a fantastic audio track.
The Art of Motion: The Making of Tracers: (HD 11:12) This is actually a pretty cool little look at the prep work that went into the movie. I kind of wish I'd seen this before the start of the actual movie just so I would have appreciated what the actors went through ahead of filming.
Director's Pitch Reel: (HD 2:25) Set up as a faux documentary - this is easily what the movie should have been! Way more interesting and compelling than what the final film became.
For me part of what makes a film a disappointment is if I was slightly entertained, but not fully. Throughout 'Tracers' I kept rewriting the movie in my head, changing little sequences here and there, adding small amounts of more interesting back story to Nikki and Cam and the rest of the gang to make them more interesting. I know when I start to do that that the movie is going south. 'Tracers' isn't "bad" necessarily - it's just kind of boring by the end. Full credit to the cast and crew for executing some amazing stunt work though - that was at least entertaining. With the fine A/V presentation and only a couple interesting extras, I can only call this one a rental. Which is frustrating because it could have been more than that.
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