Taylor Lautner, the biggest teen wolf since Michael J. Fox, has signed on to star in the upcoming parkour thriller, Tracers. This film will be produced by Mary Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, who also produced the Twilight movies, which of course made Lautner a household name and the shirtless heartthrob of millions. Tracers will also be Spanish director Daniel Benmayor’s first film with a big American marquee star. But the most important question here is: what the hell is “parkour”?
Actually, I get the feeling that I’m showing my age here, like when my grampa had to have me explain The Simpsons to him when I was 12 years old. I punched “parkour” into the internet machine and found that I actually am a bit familiar with it. Parkour is that crazy thing French guys do where they bounce around off buildings and bus stop benches and stuff like that. Kind of like skateboarding, but without the skateboard. For whatever reason, I thought this was a Brazilian thing, but apparently it has its roots in France and has gained popularity around the world.
So much so that a major action thriller is being written around it. Lautner plays a bike messenger who somehow gets deep into the mob (for a second, while reading the synopsis, I confused Tracers with the Joseph Gordon-Levitt vehicle, Premium Rush, but it looks like I’ll have to wait another day to bag on that movie). He is then introduced to the wonderful world of parkour by a “sexy stranger,” according to Deadline, and then I’m guessing that he uses his new-found running-around skills and buddies to outwit an overblown Mafia stereotype played by a character actor I like who should know better.
Y’know, I get it, actually. I’ve never been much of a skater myself, but as a smarty-farts post-modernist, I’ve always dug how skating has helped redefine the urban landscape, and it made sports in general not so exclusively pastoral. When one lives in the city, one can’t necessarily get away and go backpacking or mountain-biking, so this parkour stuff is another answer to that. Also, cities are generally very rigid and structural, which a lot of people find confining, so to sort of take back the landscape like this, to use buildings and surfaces in ways they weren’t actually designed for, is a nice reclamation of one’s environment, and I can definitely see the appeal there.
What else I see when I look at Tracers is the 1985 film Gymkata, which starred gold-medal gymnast, Kurt Thomas. Thomas played a gold-medal gymnast (natch) who is drafted by a shadowy government agency to go into some vaguely foreign country and put down one of the local warlords. It’s a lot like Enter the Dragon, if Enter the Dragon had been a really awful, terrible film. The title of Gymkata comes from the combination of karate and gymnastics that Thomas’s character employs in the film to bring evil-doers to justice. It is easily one of the most hilarious movies ever.
Now, I’m not saying Tracers will be the next Gymkata, but…no, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If the film turns out to be an actually fun action movie, and not just some slapped-together 90-minute music video looking to cynically capitalize on a valid sub-culture, then I’ll be surprised. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised all the same.