Movie review: You see Taylor Lautner, but not much action, in his parkour movie Tracers

Taylor Lautner (right) is a bike messenger who becomes fascinated with the art of parkour in Tracers.
Taylor Lautner (right) is a bike messenger who becomes fascinated with the art of parkour in Tracers.PHOTO: SHAW

ReviewAction

TRACERS (PG13)

94 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**

The story: New York city bike messenger Cam (Taylor Lautner) is at the top of his game until parkour runner Nikki (Marie Avgeropoulos) causes an accident that wrecks his bicycle, causing him to lose the salary he needs to pay off loan sharks.

He becomes fascinated with parkour, joining Nikki's circle, only to learn that they have ways of earning money that are less than legal.

No, you are not seeing double.

The poster for this movie, featuring a frontal, full-body shot of a running Lautner is almost identical to the one for his 2011 film, Abduction.

Where to start with a movie that sticks so rigidly to formula, starting from its poster?

How about the opening scene?

Cam (Lautner) has a near-death experience running his bike into a taxi.

As he literally lands atop cute Nikki (Avgeropoulos), the girl of his dreams, the camera holds their faces as they register mutual attraction - despite how, only moments earlier, both could have been road mush - because that is how sexual attraction works.

In what is supposed to be an action film, the action can be barely seen - the parkour camera looks to have been mounted on a person suffering from uncontrollable shivering.

Shakycam used to be an artistic statement, but now it is merely a method used by under-budgeted producers to hide poor stunt work.

This film features shakiness levels that range from merely irritating to motion sickness-inducing. No parkour scene is too minor to cause the camera to shimmy wildly.

The plot takes a leaf (or rather, the whole tree) from the Fast And Furious franchise by justifying the action with a caper-based plot, with the usual elements - secondary characters who are pointlessly exotic (in this case, Chinatown gangsters), a selfless hero forced into crime for the sake of others, a love interest who is really a good person deep down once you get to know her.

Lautner appears to do most of his own stunts and the story does not ask him to doff his shirt promiscuously. Those are the pluses.

On the other side of the ledger, the film asks the actor - that term is used liberally here - to step out of his beefcake zone to do some real acting.

One day, Lautner of Twilight fame will be able to give a director more.

Until then, as shown here, he is working at his maximum giving the Lautner Blank Stare.