Takers

Two Thirds Intriguing

But Is That All There Is?

September 2, 2010
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When I think of some of the more popular heist movies in recent memory, I think of movies like Ocean’s Eleven and The Italian Job.  What do they have in common?  They were fun.  They featured fun characters, a sense of humor and a sense of cool.  They also invited the audience in on the clever plans, while leaving just enough information out for a surprise or two.  For two-thirds of the running time, Takers is exactly that kind of movie.  Then, for some reason, it decides to take itself way too seriously.  Ironically, that is when it becomes goofy.

With its guys in ski masks with big guns, the opening bank heist is not exceedingly clever, but the getaway certainly makes up for that.  Afterward, we are introduced to a smooth crew of thieves that appears to have been working together for years.  The crooks have developed a system of rules that dictates how they work, which keeps them from being caught.  One of these rules is to always allow a year between jobs, but when a former member of the crew emerges from prison with a major heist opportunity that must be done in just five days, they nevertheless take the bait.

Meanwhile, a couple of detectives are on the case and determined to bring down the crew even if it means tailing them with one of their daughters in the car.  The cops themselves may be in some hot water as Internal Affairs is after them over some possibly unethical behavior.

The movie starts out stylish and fun.  Led by Idris Elba and Paul Walker, the slick team is played by Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, and former Jedi Hayden Christensen, while the token girl role is filled by Zoe Saldana.  With the exception of Christensen’s horrible line readings and Elba’s wavering accent, the cast is all perfectly well suited to their roles and although they lack the same level of movie star coolness as Danny Ocean’s crew, they still bring a solid level of suavity to the production.  On the other side of the law, Matt Dillon is as good as always as the dogged cop whose determination to solve the case supersedes his daughter’s wishes to go to the farmer’s market.

The big job is the robbery of an armored truck and again is not too clever.  The plan is almost an exact duplicate of the similar scene in The Italian Job, only without the Cooper Minis as getaway vehicles.  Nevertheless, the escape does make for the movie’s best action scene as one of the thieves is spotted by the cops and leads them on a foot chase through downtown Los Angeles and one of its hotels.  It’s an exciting action scene peppered with some awe-inspiring stunts.

The climactic shootout that follows, unfortunately, is anything but.  Trapped by a group of Russians who want their share (read: all) of the stolen money, the team of crooks must shoot its way out of a hotel room.  The scene is shot mostly in slow-motion with very depressing, sad music playing over the top.  This turns what could have been an edge-of-your-seat standoff into something far too self-important.  This tone carries through the rest of the movie, really bringing it down from the enjoyable thriller it started out to be.

Takers is not original.  The basic idea has been done many times before and nearly every major scene reminded me of other, better movies.  Even the music sounds like it was stolen from the Bond series.  Still, for a good two-thirds of the movie it had me intrigued and entertained.  Unfortunately, the final act drags the entire production way down hill, leaving the audience with a feeling of disappointment as it exits the theater.

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A self-described movie geek, Jeff Walls majored in Film Studies at the University of Utah. He also studied at the Seattle Film Institute, where he worked on short films in every capacity from lighting and acting to writing and directing. For several years, Jeff ran seattlemoviecritic.com, and is now an official DVD-aholic. For more of Jeff’s writing, also see his full archive of reviews at Past the Popcorn, and his extensive archive of pre-PtP work at AllMoviePortal.com. He also blogs about movies for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.