The premise of Takers couldn’t have been better tailored to my cinematic interests. A team of criminals who engineer and pull off perfect robberies, with timing down to the fraction of a second, deciding to do one last job, even as they’re suspicious of the source of the information, while an obsessive cop is hot on their trail, determined to break the case.
Unfortunately, the film itself was so sloppy and riddled with clichés that it quickly stopped being an homage and became more akin to a heist movie satire. By the end of the film, the audience was laughing at the melodramatic shoot-out, aghast at how a film that had started out strong had fallen to such abysmal lows.
The tough cop is Lt. Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) and the gang leader is Gordon (Idris Elba), with his partner John (Paul Walker). The rest of the gang are A.J. (Hayden Christensen), Jesse (Chris Brown) and Jake (Michael Ealy), and it’s clear through both wardrobe and cinematography that the vision was to have a very stylish group in the mold of the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., etc). The problem? Sinatra and team were unquestionably cool, but Christensen, Walker and team are all fashion but no style, like mannequins in a boutique shop window.
If you like heist films, there are a number of terrific alternatives to Takers that are a better use of your time, including The Italian Job (either the wonderful original or the entertaining recent remake). In fact, at one point in the film, TJ refers to them “going all Italian Job”, but, no, Takers never got near that level of style and grace and collapses under its own pretentions.
The opening heist at the “Federal California Bank” that establishes the expertise of the gang is exciting and when they execute their ingenious getaway, I was delighted. “Nice!” I thought, expecting the rest of the film to demonstrate the same clockwork timing and synchronized efforts. Retrospectively, though, there’s a huge flaw in their getaway plan that I won’t ruin for you – in case you ignore my review and see this film anyway – but I’ll ask you this: how would they have gotten away if the news chopper wouldn’t have landed on the roof?
The film gets into high gear when the mysterious “Ghost” (rapper T.I.) is released from prison and comes to the gang with a plan for a big $25mil armored car heist. We learn that he was part of the gang but after being shot left to be arrested while everyone else escaped. But is he trustworthy, especially given that his former girlfriend Rachel (Zoe Saldana) is now with Jake (Ealy)?
The oh-so-fashionable gang from Takers
Not enough clichés there? Sprinkle in a posse of mad Russian criminals with stringy hair, tattoo-covered biceps and enough vodka to drown the scriptwriter responsible for this additional idiocy, and it starts to become obvious that directory Luessenhop never learned that “less is more”. Oh, and I forgot another — completely unnecessary — subplot related to Detective Welles (Dillon) and his partner Hatcher (Jay Hernandez).
Welles is a laughably bad cop too, including one notable scene where he’s supposed to be taking care of his 8yo daughter (is he divorced, or still married but obsessed with his job? We never know, apparently that cliché didn’t make the final cut) and instead catches site of The Bad Guys. Before she knows what’s going on, daddy’s racing through streets like a madman, telling her to “duck down!” and even racing past the criminals, risking her life. That’s just stupid, and reminded me of the stupidity of the so-called scientists in Splice
(see my review of Splice
for more details, if you’re curious).
Oh, and then there’s the scene where one of the gang is spotted post-heist by Welles and Hatcher, and a foot-chase ensues that has so many elements of Parkour that it felt like an act from District B-13 or something from a 007 film. It certainly didn’t make sense within the context of Takers and had theater-goers chuckling by the end. And the shoot-out in the hotel room with the Russians? ’nuf said.
I don’t have much positive to say about Takers, as is obvious. A good premise, an acceptable cast, solid cinematography and location shoots, but so ridden, no, infected by clichés and tired action film tropes that it completely fell apart. No-one stayed for the credits in the screening I attended. People were more interested in escaping as quickly as possible…