It probably doesn’t help that Takers follows the strangest and most ambitious heist flick ever made [that would be Inception], but it still manages to be smart and hold one’s interest until the wheels fall off [almost literally] in the last act.
Takers opens with a bank robbery that runs as smoothly as you could want – split-second timing, no one injured, brilliant getaway – and the crew doing the job is as slick and personable a lot as you could think of: logistics guy A.J. [Hayden Christensen], brothers Jesse [Chris Brown] and Jake [Michael Ealy], brooding Gordon [Idris Elba] and wheelman John [Paul Walker].
Days after pulling off the robbery, the crew are braced by just out of jail Ghost [Tip “T.I.” Harris]. He was left behind on one of the team’s jobs because a security guard wounded him, but he did his time without giving them up – and now, he has a job that could net each of them four or five mill. Gordon and John are a bit leery, but Jesse talks them into looking at the job and A.J. susses out the logistics and says it’s not just doable, but a potentially excellent job. The one sticking point is that Ghost gained knowledge of the potential job from a member of the Russian mob – and they’ll need a quarter mill as a finder’s fee.
Although Zoe Saldana appears briefly, giving Takers a bit more soulful resonance, her character, Lilli, is Ghost’s ex – now with Jake. That might be a problem, but Ghost says it’s in the past; he’s looking to the future.
The new job is an armored car heist and the plan is a good one, but unbeknownst to the crew, a couple of cops – Jack [Matt Dillon] and Eddie [Jay Fernandez] – are working the bank job and, at the expense of an afternoon with his daughter, Jack has tracked down what could be a solid lead. Throughout the police arc, there’s a determined Internal Affairs guy [Steve Harris] who’s trying to talk to Jack – so both sides have an engaging level of intelligence and complexity to them.
The script [credited to Peter Allen & Gabriel Casseus and John Luessenhop & Avery Duff] is, as mentioned, smart – aggressively so – until the last act, at which point the movie dissolves into a shootout/bloodbath. Up ‘til that point, Takers is a lot of fun. The cast works well together and Hayden Christensen and Chris Brown are actually good.
Luessenhop directs with style – the heist flick tropes feel fresh as he tries unusual angles and lighting to generate a fluid and graceful look. Unfortunately, when everything goes to hell in the proverbial handbasket, the film’s style devolves too. I’m sure he’s looking for a kind of Peckinpah look, crossed with a bit of John Woo, but he wields slo-motion like a bludgeon and not a scalpel.
Because Takers is eminently enjoyable for its first two acts – and the final scene could have been reached through other methods [and feels more of a piece with the first two acts] – I can give the film a mild recommendation. If you love heist flicks, it’s worth seeing in a theater. Otherwise, it might still be a killer rental.
Final Grade: B-