Great stunt work in an action film can cover up for a lot of lapses, but there still needs to be a basic story of substance in back of all that great movement for a film really to land, and that’s just what’s lacking in Daniel Benmayor’s Tracers. The screenwriter doesn’t bother with even the bare outlines of the capers his protagonists are pulling, and yet we’re supposed to get wrapped up in them simply because the parkour on display is spectacularly mind-blowing (which it is), and the director has done a brilliant job of filming it. But it’s all flash and no substance that brings this movie crashing down to earth.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 05/12/2015
In debt to an Asian street gang for $15,000 which was borrowed to cover his now-deceased mother’s medical bills, hot-shot bicycle messenger Cam (Taylor Lautner) runs headlong into Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos) who’s part of a crew of elite parkour henchmen who can stealthily grab any evidence from anywhere and deliver the goods for the right price. Run by ringleader Miller (Adam Rayner), the crew also consists of Nikki’s brother Dylan (Rafi Gavron), the quiet Tate (Luciano Acuna Jr.), and the jovial Jax (Josh Yadon), and after training with these experts for a brief time, Cam proves to be a natural. When he tastes of the heady paydays they realize at the conclusion of each of these secret missions, he’s ready for more and finally sees a way out of his debt. But, he also falls for Nikki who, unfortunately for him, is Miller’s main squeeze, and he's not a man anyone should want to cross.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
From the film’s breathless opening crosscutting between Cam on his bike madly traversing New York City traffic and the parkour crew finishing their most recent mission, director Daniel Benmayor shows us his calling card: the ability to capture quite uniquely the free-wheeling action of the streets on wheels or on foot both up close and at great distances, and he stages after that opening three such exhilarating sequences as the gang runs, skips, flips and lunges across, up, over, and through a dizzying array of buildings and structures taking us right along with them or allowing us to see them in all their breathtaking majestic movement from astonishing heights making it clear these are real experts in the art of parkour with no wires or cables assisting them in their maneuvers. Would that Matt Johnson’s screenplay had filled in some of the details of what these capers were all about so that not only could we experience and enjoy the adrenaline-charged physicality of what we’re watching but also understand the purposes and objectives of these missions (other than for some unnamed McGuffin). At one point, Cam screams, “I’m flying blind here,” and we share the feeling since we’re in the midst of a heist with no explanation offered, no clear path of entry or escape mapped out, and no intrinsic involvement in the scheme on the part of the viewer. The romance which develops between Cam and Nikki also seems pre-ordained from the moment of their “meet cute” (he flies off his bike, over a car, and onto her in the street), but again it seems to exist only to put two attractive people together and not because it makes sense for them to be together. From beginning to end, the movie is beautiful to look at but lacks even a scintilla of substance which would really give it heft and a reason for the viewer to become involved.
It’s obviously Taylor Lautner doing a great deal of the parkour stunts in the movie (he trained for months to perfect it for the camera), and his athleticism is a joy to behold. Sadly, he’s still only reasonably comfortable in delivering lines and sharing scenes with other actors. Adam Rayner does the most solid work as the enigmatic Miller, a person whose street cred becomes clear later in the film but still seems a character not quite fully formed on the page. Marie Avgeropoulos is attractive and spunky as Nikki, and Rafi Gavron as her brother makes enough of an impression with his meager material to suggest more could and should have been done with him. Amirah Vann and Christian Steel are neighbors whom Cam forms an emotional attachment to, but they’re long gone by the midway point of the movie. Johnny M. Wu does very nicely as the street thug who’s continually reminding Cam of the money that he owes his boss.
The film is framed here at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very pleasing throughout, and color is rich and true with quite believable flesh tones. Contrast varies a bit throughout the presentation, but black levels are first-rate. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t quite capture the cacophony of New York City street life in an immersive fashion with only moderate use of the rear surround channels delivering ambiance. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel, and Lucas Vidal’s thumping and pulsating music gets the most effectiveness out of the surround channels.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Art of Motion: The Making of Tracers (11:13, HD): producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, director Daniel Benmayor, stunt coordinator Gary Powell, and stars Taylor Lautner, Adam Rayner, and Rafi Gavron describe the film’s plot and characters and show some behind-the-scenes work in staging the action sequences.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Director’s Pitch Reel (2:25, HD): director Daniel Benmayor’s briefly directed sequence showing how he planned to film the parkour in trying to land the job.
Promo Trailers (HD): The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, John Wisk, Mortdecai, Abduction, Spare Parts.
Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.
Exciting action scenes combined with mystifying set-ups and enigmatic capers make Tracers something of an adrenaline-fueled question mark. The stars are attractive and the action is beautifully staged and shot which might make it worth a rental for those interested in this type of material.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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