John Luessenhop's Takers is an action/drama built on the bare bones of many, many better movies. It's flashy, but without much plot or emotional interest. There are a few times when it seems to pick up steam, but depicting anything truly involving seems somewhat beyond it.
The film centers on a bank heist team, apparently the best in the world. They run tight heists, then retire to smoky leather-couched backrooms with cigars, Scotch and ladies and live it up, before retiring to their secret smoky leather-couched penthouses where they stare pensively at mistress L.A. That's it, that's the reason we're supposed to think they're cool customers and about all we get to know about them as characters, despite some strained and clipped sideplots. There's a minimalist style which can bring such shorthand through quite successfully--think Michael Mann's Heat--but this film is not made in that style.
The team consists of Idris Elba (much better in The Losers) as Gordon Jennings, Michael Ealy (Seven Pounds) as Jake Attica, Chris Brown as his brother Jesse, Paul Walker as John Rahway and my cousin (not really) Hayden Christensen as A.J. in the Porkpie Hat. Elba has a sister, Naomi (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), in rehab, and they get to show off their native British accents together, which is kind of cool. Once, she wakes up funny.
Not-so-hot on their trail are Matt Dillon as detective Jack Welles and his partner Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez). I'm not sure whether to blame the complete lack of success of Hernandez's character on him or the filmmakers, but he seems out-of-place, uncomfortable and his character just doesn't work at all to advance the story.
More complications ensue when "Ghost"--so named because he seems to appear and disappear from secure locations at will, except prison--played charismatically (thank goodness!) by rapper T.I., also a producer of the film, is released from prison looking to set up a big job quick with his former partners and the Russian mob. The camera loves T.I., and he smiles and loves it back in a persuasive performance.
To be fair, Elba, Ealy, Walker, Jean-Baptiste and Dillon do work above the general level of the material, and, along with T.I., save the film from total boring oblivion. Just.
I figured Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen would be playing brothers, since they look just like brothers, but if they're brothers in the movie, I don't know. This is the kind of thing I wondered about during the boring parts. I just discovered Chris Brown and Michael Ealy are supposed to be brothers in the movie researching this. Doesn't seem to make much difference. Christensen looks cute in his porkpie hat and has a fight scene. Brown runs in traffic.
Zoe Saldana is completely wasted as a put-upon member of a team love triangle, and that is not really okay with me. I'm not even sure how they accomplished hiding her so well, some kind of rare combination of questionable taste and misguided filmmaking. Steve Harris nor Johnathon Schaech get much play either, despite their unique presence and talents.
If you're a big fan of action movies and/or any of the actors, especially Ealy, T.I. or Matt Dillon, you might want to see Takers, but most others could take a pass, though the film is passable. It steps on its own story and potential a bit too often and leaves you rather cold.
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