Thursday, August 26, 2010
In heist movies, usually plots twist and turn and twist again only to have greed condemned for the sake of good. Been here, seen this. But ironically, it’s this expectation that makes Takers seem fresh: It doesn’t overly twist its story, but it is a solid action drama that’s tense and smart.
The main characters are in the bank robbing business, and the film is an interesting look at making a living in a criminal profession. They’re bad guys by trade, but we like them. They are: Gordon (Idris Elba), John (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen), and the Attica brothers, Jake (Michael Ealy) and Jesse (Chris Brown). They live a life of hot cars, hot women and high-class socializing. They “work” once a year, and have it made.
After the opening score yields them a cool $2 million, one of their old partners, Ghost (Tip “T.I.” Harris), is released from prison and comes to them with a job worth $12 million. The catch: It has to be done in five days. They know better but reluctantly accept, and the story proceeds to have a fair amount of surprises without overdoing it.
Hot on their trail are burnt-out cop Jack (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie (Jay Hernandez), who needs money for his family. They’re both tedious cop stereotypes who are too dumb and reckless for us to care about.
For example, Jack is divorced (aren’t all burnt out cops?), but instead of having a nice day with his daughter (Isa Briones) he follows a lead, endangers the girl’s life and then tries to patch things up after the day is ruined.
Why would the filmmakers make the cops so boring when the thieves are so fun to watch?
The joy of seeing the thieves stay a step ahead of the cops does a lot to build suspense, and because they’re worthy adversaries the tension works. Tighter editing, and possibly eliminating personal subplots such as Gordon’s drug addict sister (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and Jake’s relationship with Rachel (Zoe Saldana), would’ve made the tension stronger.
Thankfully the action is exhilarating without being overdone, particularly a shootout in a hotel room. This sequence, masterfully directed by John Luessenhop, has an almost hypnotic quality about it, and the end effect is something most effects-laden CGI sequences never achieve: It makes us feel. Similarly, kudos to hip hop artist and dancer Chris Brown for an up-tempo chase through the Los Angeles streets in which he uses Parkour (the art of using objects such as walls and cars to help you get from one place to another) and quick-thinking to evade the pursuing cops.
Given the time of its release (late August/early September is always slow), Takers is unlikely to garner much box office attention, which is shame. It’s a good, tense action/drama that does not disappoint.