Directed by: John Luessenhop (Lockdown)
Starring: Idris Elba, Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Tip "T.I." Harris, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy
Maybe the most amazing thing about John Luessenhop’s Takers is that four people are credited for writing the thing. Four people—and not a one of them was able to stick an original idea into the movie. Instead, we have a film that could write a Time-Life book on heist-movie clichés.
Takers offers us a team of hotshot bank robbers who just pulled off the most spectacular bit of thieving of their careers. We’ve also got their just-out-of-jail—and not-to-be-trusted—former partner (rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris), who has the inside dirt on how to knock off an armored car. And we have the world-weary cop (Matt Dillon) who is out to take all of them down.
That’s an acceptable foundation, except what’s built upon it is none too hot. I’m sure when this thing got greenlit, the hope was that Takers would be some powerful crime drama, filled with grit and Shakespearean backstabbing and double crosses and poetic tragedy. But a tour de force this is not, since that would take a modicum of cleverness. Every twist and plot point is telegraphed from the very beginning, and every bit of artistic, emotional response the film shoots for is never earned.
By itself, this would be enough to make the movie plain old boring, but Takers goes that extra mile to make sure it’s fully entrenched in awfulness. There’s a good bit of action in the film, but it’s all done in that stylistically phony shaky-cam manner that’s all blurs of color and bursts of sound effects. I’m pretty sure some stuff happened in the movie, and I’m going to assume it was pretty exciting.
Then we have the cast, made up of a compendium of B- and C-list actors. I’ve learned a couple of things from this movie, the first being that Tip “T.I.” Harris—as shady ex-con Ghost—might very well be a robot from the way he delivers his lines. The second is that he is still better than Hayden Christensen as a tattooed tough-guy greaser doing some sort of Brando impersonation. Yes, this happens, and it’s as egregious as it sounds. At least, now we can finally put away the idea that George Lucas and his stilted dialogue were the reason Christensen was so bad in those Star Wars films. Especially since Christensen spends the entire movie making Paul Walker look sentient.
Thankfully, the entire cast isn’t on the same level of amateurishness. Idris Elba (The Losers) is solid as usual and Michael Ealy (Miracle at St. Anna) has a subtle presence that makes him appealing. But they’re given absolutely nothing to work with. Elba’s character has a drug-addict sister (Marianne Jean-Baptist, City of Ember) and Ealy’s has a fiancée (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) and a brother (Chris Brown, This Christmas). This is almost literally all we learn about any of the characters in Takers, trading characterization in for paper-thin types.
Each of these things on its own would simply doom the movie to a life of mediocrity. Squishing this all together into one heaping ball of malignant stupidity is what instead pushes Takers squarely into the realm of completely useless. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity and some language.