- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Will Harris
eist movies are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but the most successful are those where a strong ensemble is teamed with a director who knows how to deliver the action in a fast-paced, visually-appealing manner. You’ll notice, of course, that I didn’t mention the script…but, really, if the cast has chemistry and the film looks good and moves fast, then the average moviegoer isn’t going to care about the script.
“Takers” looks good. “Takers” moves fast.
Shame about the ensemble.
“Takers” is a classic tale of cops versus robbers, but it’s not exactly a fair fight for filmgoers: the robbers are painted so much more interestingly as characters that you can’t help but root for them over the cops.
Gordon (Idris Elba), John (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen), and brothers Jake and Jesse (Michael Ealy and Chris Brown, respectively) are a group of professional “takers,” as they call themselves, who pull off big jobs and live large on their loot. Once upon a time, however, they had another member of their gang: Ghost (T.I.), who got busted last time around, did his time, and is now out and looking to pull another heist with his old pals. Given that they’ve just completed a job, they’re none too keen on the idea, but Ghost soon guilts them into joining him. Meanwhile, police detectives Jack Wells (Matt Dillon) and Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) are drawn into the efforts to find the individuals responsible for the bank heist that the group perpetrated immediately prior to Ghost’s release.
One has to presume that the development of the cop characters were approached by asking, “How can we make these guys the ones you want to root against without making them wholly unlikeable from the get-go?” The answer: Dillon’s character is written as an obsessive type who cares more about his job than his family, and Hernandez…well, we can’t say too much about Det. Hatcher’s issues without entering into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that he’s got his own problems.
As for the robbers, Elba classes up the joint in no small way, upping the credibility of the film tenfold whenever he’s onscreen – and, no, it’s not just because of his British accent, although that certainly doesn’t hurt. If this was “Ocean’s Eleven,” Elba would definitely be the George Clooney of the group, carrying the film as much with his charisma as with his formidable acting abilities. But thanks to the latter, Gordon is provided with a secondary storyline: a crack-addicted sister, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who looks like she really could be related to him. Even if there was anyone else in the gang who could match Elba – and for the record, there isn’t – they’re given almost no character development to work with, and given that it took four people to write the script, this is downright unforgiveable. Hell, the most we learn about Christensen’s character is that he’s prone to wearing a hat that makes him look like the biggest douche this side of Chuck Bass, and even that’s more than poor Paul Walker gets. Zoe Saldana is barely even in the movie, and as for T.I.’s performance…actually, you feel a little sorry for him: you can tell how badly he wants to be Samuel L. Jackson, but he comes across more like Damon Wayans.
Damned if the film doesn’t play pretty well anyway, though. Director John Luessenhop may not have helmed a film since 2000’s “Lockdown,” but you’d never know it by the way he delivers the goods during the heist scenes. Even more impressive, however, is the chase sequence with Chris Brown’s character trying desperately to escape from the police, which will leave audiences breathless. Indeed, if anyone’s still talking about “Takers” in five years’ time, you can bet it’ll be this scene they’ll be discussing. It’s that good.
But is it good enough to make “Takers” worth seeing? For action fans who have already seen “The Expendables” and are looking for their next fix, it’ll probably do the trick, but for anyone else, it’s strictly matinee material. It’s clear that Luessenhop has some serious skills as an action director, but let’s hope he gets the chance to apply them to a film with a better script next time.