By Dirk Sonniksen | August 26, 2010
Director: John Luessenhop
Writer(s): Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop, Avery Duff
Starring: Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon, Michael Ealy, Idris Elba, T.I., Jay Hernandez, Paul Walker
They take; in other words, they are thieves. That’s the premise of this breakneck tale of cops and robbers by fledging director John Luessenhop. Takers is the latest summer blockbuster extravaganza to glorify violence and promote it as a viable lifestyle. It’s a film that looks like a beer commercial, only with cracking gunfire, jerky foot chases, and criminals made out to be the good guys. It’s a not-so-neatly packaged whirlwind fiasco that rips off Heat, Ocean’s Eleven, and yes, even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
We’ve got our thieves: a band of slick-dressed, smooth-talking badasses that are looking for the next big heist. Luessenhop starts us off with these fellows robbing a bank, then escaping from the bank via the most completely ridiculous route available. There’s a lot of ridiculous in Takers, but let’s move on. Next we meet the cold, street-ravaged cops of Los Angeles, with Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) being the most street-ravaged of them all. He smells no good and he won’t rest until that no good is…good. Cut to Ghost (T.I.) the hip-talkin’ gangsta guy who fills the screen with enough urban cool to last me a lifetime. He’s our antagonist of sorts (aw, did I give something away? It doesn’t matter; you’ll figure it out in the first thirty minutes), and he’s got a plan that will make these boys rich. Indeed, more Armani suits and cognac for everyone!
I could give you more plot summary, but as I’ve mentioned, it’s in about a dozen or so other films, so just go watch those movies instead. Essentially, Luessenhop went heavy on the action to offset a story that plods along aimlessly like some starving animal lost in the desert. Between the bouts of über-violence, we have what was most likely meant to be a story, but it’s so dull and cliché that the intelligent moviegoer will be left slack jawed until the next dose of insanely gut-wrenching action bursts onto the screen. To be fair, I will give Luessenhop credit for the action sequences; he certainly has a future in the action genre.
As for our cast, it’s a mish-mash of the good and the bad. Chris Brown and Michael Ealy are brothers in this film, and for the most part, their performances are on par with the quality of the script. Hayden Christensen makes an appearance, and while he has come a long way since Star Wars, there is definitely work to be done. I have never seen T.I. in anything, so it’s hard to gauge, but overall, a little less of the street thing would make for a more convincing ride. Paul Walker plays the levelheaded thief, and for some reason his performance improved as the film progressed. Matt Dillon was absolutely horrible in this film; what was he thinking? Who did I like? Idris Elba was the only member of our merry band of thieves who deserves any credit in this film; it’s a good thing I like The Wire so much.
I had no idea what sort of movie I was walking into when I went to see Takers, but I left wishing I had gone into a different theater. This film was a blatant attempt at cashing in on everything that’s been done in cinema in the last forty years. Couple that with preposterous situations poured onto overloaded action scenes and you’ve got yourself a really bad action movie…which, I’m certain, was not what the director intended. Takers so lacked originality that it became comical after a while, and even the attempt to make this film “cool” by appealing to a particular demographic failed miserably. If John Luessenhop was indeed attempting a film with some substance interspersed with some explosions and robberies, he should go back and watch Heat again—better yet, don’t; just move on.