A lukewarm version of Heat, Takers gets by just doing its half-slick, half-shaky thing: delivering cliché cops-and-criminals thrills with a mostly likable cast. As for the bits that blow up into overwrought silliness, they—like the rest of the film—are easily forgotten outside the theater.
Takers is somewhat surprising—not in its plot and characters, or its countless scenes where very cool, well-dressed thieves do very cool things in slow motion. It’s surprising that for as thin and shallow as the flick is, it still passably entertains on a “eh, I didn’t have anything better to be doing” level.
Here’s the story: There’s a band of very upscale, highly organized bank thieves (they talk of offshore accounts in the Dutch Antilles, and The Bloomberg Report) who are planning to rob an armored car, and there are a couple of desperate, morally compromised LAPD detectives who are trying to catch them. The end. Oh sure, somewhere in there are also a whole bunch of over-the-top shoot-outs, explosions, and lots of guys yelling at each other as they smash stuff up. And some Russian thugs with really big guns. And there are moral quandaries, and suspicions, and betrayals.
But mostly Takers is very upfront and straightforward about the two things it’s offering: 1) Good-looking folks in sharp suits drinking expensive booze while making intricate (and highly implausible) plans to steal things, all of it shot with the slow, luxurious richness of a liquor commercial. And 2) The actual thefts, which come off with hyperactive, hand-held, slam-edited chaos and boom-boom-pow jerky-cam destruction.
On the thieving side, those good-looking folks include Idris Elba (using his real British accent for a change), who I keep championing as a great actor who needs to move up from playing tough-guy-on-a-job sidekick roles. Musician-actors Chris Brown and the film’s producer Tip ‘T.I’. Harris are also in the crew, both leaving behind real-life legal issues to turn in decent on-screen work. And Michael Ealy grounds the movie with one of its less flashy but stabler performances.
For those of you who ever wondered who would win in a wooden-off between those two blond mannequins Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen, you have your answer: With the much larger role as the co-leader of the gang, Walker continues to prove he could be a better, more charismatic actor than he lets on, if only he’d take on more Flags of our Fathers roles and fewer Fast and Furious (and Takers) parts. Christensen only proves how mouth-breathingly stupid a person can look in a hipster pork-pie hat.
(It Girl Zoe Saldana is in here somewhere, as one of the thieves’ girlfriend, but Takers doesn’t have time to waste on boring relationship stuff—the sultry Star Trek, Avatar, and Losers actress is barely on screen.)
On the cop side are Matt Dillon getting his obsessed, crazy-eyed glare on, and Jay Hernandez just running along, trying to keep up. Takers makes it very clear which side of the law & order struggle we’re supposed to be rooting for. Dillon and Hernandez don’t get any fancy, cool cars or motorcycles, or slick suits, or slow-mo struts.
As directed by John Luessenhop (2000’s Lockdown), Takers has a lot of energy and very little matter. Its action scenes are directed and edited with the usual “WTH is going on?!” visual confusion, and the movie’s big “emotional” scenes rely more on sad violins than character development. (Typical tough-guy dialog: “We’re takers, we take.”) But there’s a reason liquor ads work—that sort of slick, sexy style goes a long way toward selling even the most mediocre product. Somewhere amid all the pointless cool, Takers works well enough as all-surface-no-substance entertainment.