Takers caught my eye when it first came out, since it starred the extremely cool Idris Elba (tied for Actor With the Most Awesome Name with Chiwetal Ejiofur (how the frak do you pronounce that, anyway?)) and looked like a nifty heist flick. I like heist flicks because they often pit slick and smart heisters against usually morally questionable targets (a bank works, right?) and the cadre of thieves is usually dodging a relentless cop.
Because this is the usual set-up for heist flicks, the denouement tends to be a chess game where the smartest person who looked ahead enough, and demonstrated enough knowledge of their opponent, wins. The Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 films are excellent examples of this.
But Takers, ultimately disappointed. Mainly because it did NOT follow this formula as it should have.
Released August 27, 2010.
Written by Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop, and Avery Duff
Directed by John Luessenhop
Starring: Matt Dillon, Jay Hernandez, Idris Elba, Chris Brown, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, and T.I. Harris.
* * * * *
Takers opens with two detectives tooling around New York City. They are Jack Welles (Dillon) and Eddie Hatcher (Hernandez). We quickly switch to a well-orchestrated bank heist conducted by Gordon (Elba), AJ (Christensen), Jake (Ealy), Jesse (Brown), and John (Walker). They have a plan and chemistry and seem to make every effort to not do anybody any harm. Their escape is one of the more clever, if totally improbable, escapes in all heist movie-dom.
Then Welles and Hatcher are on the hunt, doing their best to track down the thieves. We then switch to views of the detectives and the thieves as the story pans out. After a dedicated viewing of video, the detectives end up with a few leads. Meanwhile, the thieves seem to be honorable and friendly guys. It’s easy to like them.
At this point, enter the wild card in the form of Ghost (Harris). Ghost used to be a member of the band of thieves, but got shot and captured due to a mistake he made in a heist some 4 or 5 years ago. He never turned on them and they kept his share of the money in a secure account, so the idea was for him to get out and collect his money and disappear. But Ghost has a lead on a huge payoff that he got wind of in the clink.
Thus, the lads start to plan their next job, with some misgivings. Nobody wants to trust Ghost, but they seem strangely willing to go for his plan. And this is where the problems begin.
The story gets bogged down in sibling tension and romantic issues, as well as a random graft plot line. When we see a heist film, we want to see the relationships between the buddies/thieves and see how they play off of each other. And it would sure be nice to see misgivings motivate some planning ahead just in case there happens to be a double-cross from Ghost involving perhaps some Russians.
So the movie is entertaining and exciting. There is a marvelous foot chase as Chris Brown shows his agility and the detectives do what they do best: implacability.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the movie essentially spoils the ending itself. It gets extremely predictable and the viewer sits there shouting at the screen (perhaps silently), “Why don’t you just ____?”
I get it. These are thieves. They are essentially leeches on society and they really ought to get what’s coming to them. But these are essentially nice guys and the movie takes pains to show us that.
When the finale is not a thrilling chess match but a series of overwrought gunfights, the heist movie is no longer a heist movie but a social commentary.
The acting is quite good, particularly Matt Dillon’s performance as well as Michael Ealy’s. Brown does a nice job, but has two total levels. Paul Walker channels Keanu Reeves, as usual. And Jay Hernandez: You’re such a good actor… when you try. Try harder next time.
Hayden Christensen and Idris Elba stand out also. Partly because big Anakin seems to become quite a fine actor and Idris, or his character, has a certain gravity and magnetism that seems to act as a lynchpin for the team.
I enjoyed the movie until the final twenty minutes. I was surprised the filmmakers did what they did there. Sure, not everyone can pull off an Ocean’s 11, but a little more effort would have been appreciated.
Pens (writing): 3
Cameras (acting): 4
Screens (the entire experience): 3.5