A good movie is like a restaurant that serves quality food and lots of it. You can gorge yourself and there will still be plenty to take home. Some of my most distinct movie memories aren’t from watching films, but talking about them afterwards. Cinema brings diverse people into a single place for a communal experience. That’s why when you watch a movie by yourself at home you miss out on half of the pleasure of cinema. If a movie is really good or really bad, at least there is always something to say.
After the screening of last year’s most subversive film, The LEGO Movie, I spent an hour discussing it with another critic. And after Michael Bay’s artless and disgusting Pain & Gain, I nearly lost my voice from shouting at someone who really liked the movie. Daniel Benmayor’s Tracers, which stars Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame, offers no such pleasures. I suspect audiences will immediately forget the film after viewing it and the weather will be the most pressing topic of conversation.
Everything in Tracers is mediocre and forgettable. It’s not a film where you leave electrified and riveted, but it’s also not one where you come out wincing or screaming. With the exception of some brave stunt work, a robot could have made this film from a handbook of action clichés.
Of course, there is the young, white male protagonist who is in deep with the wrong people because he took out a loan to pay for his sickly mother’s health care bills. He’s not a bad guy, so we don’t feel guilty for rooting for him, but he’s still just bad ass enough to be an action star. That’s all just in theory though, because there is nothing remotely poignant or bad ass about anything in the movie.
The aforementioned generic white protagonist (played by the appropriately mediocre Taylor Lautner) whose name I don’t remember or couldn’t care less about, runs into another generic good-looking girl with whom he becomes enamoured for no other reason than the film’s necessary conflict and so that he can win her over by the end of the movie. This protagonist stalks her, which the movie doesn’t think is creepy because it’s a movie, and eventually joins a group of criminals that do….I honestly don’t know what they do because the film never really makes it clear, other then that they make money by stealing or getting paid by other people for whom they provide a service to, which normally involves their skill set – they’re all really good at parkour.
The film devotes most of its time to running sequences: there are running away from bad guy sequences, running from police sequences, practicing to run sequences and running for the only reason than it looks cool sequences. Some of it is impressive, but not due to the way it is stylized or shot. Rather, it’s impressive because of some of the parkour stunts. Although most of these set pieces are shot with uninteresting wide angles that hardly attempt to put the spectator into the subjective experience of the characters, the sheer bravery of the acrobatics was enough to grab my attention for short glimpses. The fact that there appears to be no CGI and that the shot often doesn’t cut demonstrates that these stunts were actually performed and not manipulated in post-production, which is even more impressive.
Even Lautner is seen jumping from great heights, flipping in the air and climbing across different artifices. But after much gritty action – this movie’s one trick pony which already began as a high-budget YouTube video – the set pieces grow monotonously tiresome. The appreciation of stunts can only go so far; there needs to be characters we care about or a plot we’re invested in. A movie could be 90 minutes of action and still be a complete bore (The Raid: Redemption is an exception because of how stylistically fascinating and invigorating it all was).
Tracers is essentially the same action movie plot told in a generic way that you’ve seen before – good guy in a bad situation meets attractive girl; girl plays hard to get as other surrounding circumstances simultaneously get worse; the bad guys lose and good guy gets the girl. Nothing is inspired; Lautner’s performance seems desensitized to his character’s past and mother’s death while the rest of the story is under-developed. None of this is to say that the film is unwatchable, it’s just average. Extraordinarily, superlatively and exceptionally average. Honestly, you’d do better to look up the weather forecast, at least then there would be something to talk about.
Formulaic in all its plotting and characterization, Tracers is uninspired and forgettable, like a mediocre restaurant that serves small portions of mediocre food, leaving you with little to chew on and minimal satiation.