Among the reams of sage advice he’s provided over the years, John Waters once noted that, if you get really bored in a movie, you can always look at the lamps. And the makers of “Takers” must have realized that audiences would be starved for distraction, so they spend much of the movie lingering over the suits, the sportscars, the cigars, and the single-malt scotch that are apparently key elements in the lifestyle of successful thieves.
Too bad the leather sofas make more of an impact than any of the characters.
“Takers,” for all the many bright lights in its ensemble cast, winds up being just another fill-in-the-blank cops and robbers movie, with neither the good guys nor the bad emerging as three-dimensional human beings of any interest whatsoever. The fact that four people (Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, Avery Duff, and director John Luessenhop) labored over the script suggests one of those committees where four jackasses make a camel, or however the cliché goes.
The film opens with cops Jack (Matt Dillon) and Eddie (Jay Hernandez) making a drug bust while a slick posse of crooks hold up a bank in a downtown L.A. skyscraper. The heist – which involves escaping in a hijacked TV news helicopter – goes off without a hitch, and the robbers (played by Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Chris Brown, Michael Ealy, and Hayden Christensen) slip away to enjoy their spoils.
But wait, there’s more thing going down that day – Ghost (rapper T.I.), a former member of the larcenous gang, gets out of prison after a five-year stint that he served without turning in any of his comrades who left him, injured, at the scene of the crime. (The five-year-old heist took place in 2004, giving you some idea of how long this movie’s been sitting on the shelf.) Despite the fact that Jake (Ealy) is now dating Ghost’s ex (Zoe Saldana, in a nothing role – another indicator of this film’s age), he appears to bear no grudge.
Ghost just wants his cut of the previous gig – and he has an idea for One Last Job, an armored-truck robbery that will net $30 million. The only catch is that they have five days to get it ready.
Jack, meanwhile, is trying to track down the bank robbers while dealing with some trite movie-cop issues (he’s a workaholic whose wife and daughter walked out on him, Internal Affairs think he roughed up a suspect) – the one unique quality about the character is that he’s so fixated on his job that he’ll actually get into a car chase while his tween daughter is sitting in the passenger seat. And the closer Jack gets to solving the bank job, the more obvious it becomes that the armored-car takedown isn’t going to go exactly to plan.
Director Luessenhop (“Lockdown”) tries to jazz up this tired tale with lots of editing and a camera that’s always bobbing and weaving – and that’s just during regular conversations. When it’s time to shoot a chase scene, he goes buck-wild, cutting so much that the movie’s practically strobing. Sadly, neither of the heists are particularly memorable, and both would probably wither after a few minutes of “But how did they know…?” and “What if he hadn’t…?” scrutiny from the audience.
Heist movies don’t generally have to include super-deep characters as long as we understand the function of each team member (The Planner, The Demolitions Expert, et.al.), but all we get from this well-dressed bunch is That Guy, That Other Guy, and The One with the Hat.
Kudos to the casting directors, at least, for assembling so many talented folks to do so very little – in addition to Elba, Dillon, Hernandez, and Saldana, “Takers” provided paychecks for the likes of Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Glynn Turman. Not that the cast is flawless, mind you; including both Walker and Christensen results in too much pretty blankness for one film, and T.I. seems clearly out of his depth, spitting out every line in exactly the same way. He’s supposed to be making the audience wonder whether or not Ghost can be trusted, but the performance leaves little room for doubt.
“Takers” is the kind of movie that gets dumped for a quick late-August release on its way to DVD, which is where it should have gone directly without passing Go or collecting $200. Don’t let it steal your valuable time.