Friday, August 27, 2010


I love heist flicks and I'm usually willing to cut them an awful lot of slack. On my DVD shelf alongside of Heist, To Catch a Thief, and Sneakers, I own copies of The Newton Boys, How to Beat the High Co$t of Living and After the Sunset. When a new heist flick comes along I'm willing to give it several chances to prove itself. After seeing Takers I might have to reevaluate that position.

It took four writers to put Takers together, and it shows. The film is a mediocre mess of both shots and storylines best left of the cutting room floor. I'm sure the attempt here was to merge the coolness of the Ocean's Eleven franchise (without Clooney, Pitt, and Cheadle) with the feel of Michael Mann's Heat (without DeNiro, Pacino, and Kilmer). Not surprising, it's a disaster in every sense of the word.

The story follows an exceptional (beyond all belief) crew of thieves (Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen) fresh off their latest score when an old member of the group (T.I.) rolls out of jail and presents his old pals with a plan to heist an armored car. At the same time the script gives us the storyline of the two cops (Matt Dillon, Jay Hernandez) attempting to track the crew down, as well as subplots involving the cop's families, an Internal Affairs investigation, the crew's personal lives, and the Russian mob.

Director, and co-writer, John Luessenhop also throws in random, and at time inexplicable, shifts in tone raging from everything from a caper film to brutal action. Takers also is responsible for some of the shoddiest camera work you'll find in anything claiming to be a feature film complete with shaky cam, out-of-focus shots, and near-unwatchable blurry, juggled action scenes. The movie is exactly as unfocused as it sounds.

It should come as no surprise then that the film's conclusion is as fractured and incomplete as the rest of the film. Given the nature of it's script problems it's unlikely that a suitable ending could have been reached, but what we're given feels rushed, phoned-in, and incomplete. Had I still cared about what was occurring on-screen I might have felt cheated (I guess its a blessing the movie had already taken that from me).

Despite spending an inordinate amount of time and effort to convince us the crew are too cool for school, the film can never decide if it wants us to root for them. The script includes moments celebrating the crooks nobility and heroism (complete with insulting music cues) as well as dramatic (or as close as this film comes to true drama) moments of the cops fighting the good fight. Do we want the crooks to succeed or for Dillon and his partner to get their collar? If the director his other writers can't decide, how can we?

And, on the subject of cool, as any 10 year-old knows, you either have it or you don't. And whatever you do, you can't force it. And no film in recent memory has done just that with less results. Paul Walker and company might enjoy playacting that they're Danny Ocean and friends, but wishing doesn't make it so.

The film also loses points from me for namedropping better films (such as The Italian Job) and squandering what little it has going for it. The most egregious example of this is the use of Zoe Saldana, who is completely wasted in a small role as one of the crew's girlfriend - a part which could have been played a number of forgettable actresses.

Takers fails by any measure. It's a below average action flick. It's a ridiculous heist flick (and not in a good way). It's a laughable drama. And it's a very bad film. If you're in the mood for a heist flick I can recommend several (including some I mentioned in this review), but, if I could offer one piece of advice, do yourself a favor and don't let Takers take a single dime from you.

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