Friday, August 27, 2010
Movie review: Takers
It's so loud, you may wish you'd picked up a pair of hearing protectors to go with your popcorn.
O.K., O.K., so director John Luessenhop's Takers isn't the cleverest heist movie since 2003's The Italian Job—which it references in the script, by the way. In fact, it's full of stupid decisions on the part of its "mixed crew" of (supposedly) fiendishly meticulous criminal masterminds. Not to be outdone, the cop who makes it his mission in life to nail their hides to the prison yard wall makes errors of judgment aplenty in this loud, derivative, wishful-thinking take on high-life crime thrillers.
Still, when the action gets hot and heavy, it's hard not to be carried along on the visceral wave of excitement generated by cinematographer Paul Haslinger's unique, impressionistic style. Some will be put off by the fast-zoom, tilt-shift, rough-focusing camera work; but during a central chase scene in which one of our robbers (Chris Brown as Jesse Attica) attempts to outrun and outmaneuver the two relentless cops on his tail, this "fog of war" approach to filming really adds impact.
(As in: cars running into you impact.)
Meet the criminal crew: Jesse, the young recruit (mentioned above); his brother, veteran heister Jake (Michael Ealy); smooth as the piano jazz he plays A.J. (Hayden Christensen); heavy hitter with a long gun John Rahwey (Paul Walker); and mastermind with a Range Rover Gordon Jennings (Idris Elba). These five are shown to be doing just fine by knocking off a bank a year and then laying low to invest their "earnings" and drive around town in their low-profile internal combustion machines (classic Porsche, bright red crotch rocket, "borrowed" broadcast news helicopter, etc.).
That last mentioned mode of transportation was used to extract them from the scene of their latest robbery, a bank in downtown Los Angeles. Seemingly outflanked by the police and as good as captured, they bet big on the competitiveness of local news agencies to be the first on the scene of a page one story—then cash in on the predictable outcome.
In the manner of other affable screen outlaws (notably those roguish Oceans Eleven chaps), these hoods are all rather mild-mannered and unquestionably charming. They're so big-hearted, in fact, that they each agree to donate 10% of their annual take to charity. (What swell guys!) But one disremembered gang member is about to upset their carefully cultivated sweetness-and-light apple cart.
It's Ghost (T.I.), who's just been released from prison, where he's spent the last several years biding his time after he alone was caught and incarcerated following a robbery gone wrong. With only a couple of days on the outside under his belt (see, he now actually HAS a belt), Ghost wants to pitch a new mega-heist to his old crew.
Downside #1: it has to be done in five days (not a lot of lead time, given the purported degree of meticulous detail our fellows are used to employing in the planning stage).
Downside #2: it involves the Russian mob.
These downsides will come into play when the rubber meets the road (ref. armored car tires) and the scary stuff hits the fan (ref. a fusillade of bullets from the suite adjoining their own at the Roosevelt Hotel).
That last-mentioned episode points out one of the most notable aspects of this production, which is how incredibly LOUD it is. When the pump shotguns open up and the assault rifles start barking, you might wish you'd picked up a pair of ear protectors at the concession stand along with your popcorn. (I screened it at the Dallas Studio Movie Grill; results will certainly vary by theater location and bass-boosting sound system specs.)
On the other side of the legal fence, veteran detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) is finding his focus diverted by this latest perfectly-executed bank robbery. He's not spending enough time with his school-aged daughter, so he takes her along as a passenger while he's tailing a suspect off the clock, getting them both involved in a dangerous high-speed chase through streets loaded with traffic. (Welles seems to be the only cop in moviedom without one of those portable roof-mounted flasher units.)
Jack's partner Eddie (Jay Hernandez) is trying to get his buddy to pay more attention to the important things in life (i.e., family), even while he himself is dealing with a difficult family situation. Eddie will come face to face with both temptation and deadly danger before the final reel, and the decisions he makes will serve to complicate the life of him and his partner.
NOTE to scripters Luessenhop, Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, and Avery Duff, before I end by giving their film a generally positive appraisal: C-4 is not used in the mining industry.
AND HEARING LOSS: "Come sip from the cup of destruction." - Ghost, quoting Genghis Kahn