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by on August 25, 2010
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As typical an example of style over substance as you’ll see, “Takers” gives piles on the bravado, feeds you all the flash, but leaves you…well, nothing. It just leaves you.

You should think of it as “The Italian Job” with 50% less Caucasian. That’s pretty much it, though it splashes in a little more mob-movie go-out-in-a-blaze-of-glory swagger.

The film centers around a group of crooks, led by Idris Elba (“Obsessed”) and Paul Walker (“The Fast and the Furious), who we’re supposed to like for some reason, though there’s really not any real reason to like any of them save for they’re good looking and sit around in trendy clubs and on the balconies of ungodly expensive LA apartments, which I suppose is as good a reason as any to take up with criminals.

Just after a particularly clever bank job (that relies on the most scattershot random occurrence to properly go down, but it was all part of the plan), the boys find themselves visited by the ghost of Christmas past, quite literally since the guy’s name is Ghost (T.I.). Ghost was a member of the team who was caught during a job, refused to roll over on his boys, and did 5 years in the pen.

Ghost it seems has a job involving relieving an armored truck of around $25 million or so, which gets the boys’ attention. But somehow our heroes don’t trust their old friend.

The mood is meant to evoke a Michael Mann-type vibe, and there are several shots directly ripped from “Collateral,” including a sweeping overhead shot of cars on the street and some digital nighttime shots. There’s a lot of cool blue light bathing the actors as well, as they sit around looking at each other like they haven’t a care in the world, which is fine in an old school way, and they even reference “The Italian Job” at one point of the film, which doesn’t excuse them from stealing their centerpiece heist from that film’s centerpiece heist.

The acting is hit or miss, at best. Christiansen is surprisingly not terrible for most of his limited screen time, but if you take into account his ridiculous hat, arguably the most annoying and obnoxious in cinema history, that cred goes down just a touch. Brown and T.I. are musicians trying to act, a fact that couldn’t be more clear if they both had the phrase tattooed on their chests. Brown especially puts in a 4th-grade school play performance; T.I. isn’t much better.

Elba has tremendous presence, but for some reason keeps popping up in subpar films. Here he is allowed to use his natural British accent, which begs a strategic question during the film’s opening bank robbery: why would you, in LA, let the black Brit do the talking? Wouldn’t it make sense for someone with a less distinct voice tell everyone to lay down and shut up?

Walker is Walker, which is to say steadily bad in the acting department, and Ealy is passable if unspectacular. Matt Dillon as a cop in trouble with Internal Affairs hams it up as the heavy in a film where the crooks are the good guys and the cops are the cops, which makes them the de facto baddies, though none of them are  really all that villainous.

There’s one moment I had a big problem with, where a crook and a cop have a faceoff with each holding a gun. We cut away to another character, who hears the gunshot. Who do you think got the better of the exchange?

There are also a couple of wholly ridiculous moments where guys who should have been dead to rights come out unscathed, and another where two characters with a legitimate chance to escape danger casually and inexplicably stroll out in the middle of a shooting gallery.

“Takers” isn’t a terrible film, just a misguided and more or less irrelevant one.