If there is an overlying theme in the new heist film Takers
, it is extreme vanity. For starters, take the fact that this is the pet project of rapper T.I.
, who both produced and stars in what is less a movie, and more an excuse for him and a bunch of other handsome actors (and musicians) to stand around, looking incredibly handsome and well-dressed and bad ass for close to two hours. It's an incredibly perfunctory, utterly forgettable heist movie that, ironically, steals a hell of a lot from other, far better heist movies, but who cares? Everybody's so good-looking and expensively tailored and sexually active. That's all that matters, right? Right...?
Sincerely, the first half of Takers
plays like an extremely expensive rap video, with stars Idris Elba
, Paul Walker
, Hayden Christensen
, Michael Ealy
, and Chris Brown
Chris Brown) going from a pretty decent opening bank robbery heist to endless shots of their incredibly wealthy and incredibly awesome lives. When they aren't all walking together in slow-motion while helicopters explode behind them, they're sipping expensive scotch in crisp suits and banging attractive ladies who apparently are on call to hang out in Paul Walker's swimming pool whenever he needs them. Believable.
The plot, such as it is, really only kicks into gear when Ghost (T.I.), a former member of this crew of takers, gets out of prison and comes at them with a plan for a massive heist. These guys, meticulous and careful as they are, of course take him up on his offer. Never mind that he went to prison because the rest of the crew abandoned him after a job gone wrong. Never mind his mention of shady Russians from his prison stint helping him concoct this scheme. Never mind the fact that his plan is more or less the exact same armored car robbery from The Italian Job
(minus the Mini-Coopers).
From there a number of disconnected scenes portraying the personal lives of these guys sort of intermingle into something vaguely resembling an attempt at making these stylish assholes sympathetic. Elba has a crack-addicted sister, Ealy is lovingly engaged to T.I.'s former girlfriend ( Zoe Saldana
, in a "what the hell am I doing here" performance), Chris Brown muses (ironically) about how much he doesn't want to go back to prison, and Christensen...well, he's got a lot of tattoos, and plays jazz piano...so there's that. As for Paul Walker? Well...just look how handsome he is!
None of this matters, or works, really. The notion of emotional growth for any of these characters is more or less negated from the get-go, but the movie insists on portraying their drama as if it were something for us to sympathize with. Perhaps realizing that this wasn't quite working, director John Luessenhop
and the cadre of screenwriters credited with this thing spend a laborious amount of time on a sub-plot surround the cops tracking these guys, played by Matt Dillon
and Jay Hernandez
. Dillon is saddled with the cliched "troubled cop" routine, nursing an apparent divorce and severe anger issues. Hernandez is so bright and sunny in his happy family life by comparison, that it's anything but surprising when it turns out he's dirty. All these police shenanigans go exactly nowhere, and in both cases, just come to an abrupt end, giving one the impression that all of it was stitched into the script without much care.
More than anything else, it's just bizarre that the movie even tries to graze the audience's emotions in that arduous second half, when the first half is so carelessly narcissistic. These guys are set-up as slick-as-hell thieves with lives that every douche bag on the planet should envy. That the story so clumsily tries to turn that on its head seems to betray the element of wish-fulfillment that the whole movie is predicated upon. I don't think I'd have even terribly minded if Takers
had remained heartless and glossy, as long as it was at least a small measure of fun. It isn't.
Lussenhop is not terribly gifted at staging action, nor is the script particularly creative about any of it either. Besides the aforementioned Italian Job
heist, there are scenes that seem more than casually lifted from movies like Heat
and True Romance
, not to mention an insanely protracted, absurdly overblown Chris Brown parkour sequence. All of these are shot with extreme amounts of shaky-cam of the most vomit-inducing variety. Lussenhop also has this bizarre tendency during particularly heated moments to have characters shout exactly what is happening on screen over the din of gunfire or explosions or whatever else, as if to imply that the audience can't figure it out on their own. Which, of course, they can't, because the camera won't stop spazzing out.
All things considered, Takers
is ultimately a failure because it tries desperately to do a variety of things it is woefully incapable of. Then again, when you consider that the only thing it really proves capable of is attractive costume and set design, maybe it never really had a chance to begin with. This is the sort of movie that belongs on the direct-to-DVD shelf, not in theaters.