Old 08-26-2010, 10:27 PM
John Luessenhop's Takers

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Takers (2010)

John Luessenhop's "Takers" is a heist film like any other, and therein lies its first major problem. This is a movie that most people have already seen, one that has been done in a much better fashion with films like "The Italian Job" and "The Bank Job." With "Takers," it appears that the writers thought the essentials of a heist film were a half-baked heist sequence and lots and lots of gunfire. They seem to forget that if there's not a good story and characters in place to carry those extra elements, none of them will matter.

The film starts off strong with a group of criminals, that includes Jesse Attica (Chris Brown), A.J. (Hayden Christensen), and John Rahway (Paul Walker), carrying out a successful robbery of a bank. Not long after this, an old associate of theirs, Ghost (T.I.), approaches them after being recently released from prison, where he had been sentenced due to being wounded and left behind on a previous job. He brings them information for another job that would involve robbing an armored truck for around $25 million. After some initial hesitation, the group agrees to give it a go.

Meanwhile, Jack Welles (Matt Dillon), a cop, is attempting to track them down with very few leads. All he has to gone on at this point is the surveillance tape from the bank robbery. After tracking down buyers of a large chunk of C-4 explosives, more clues begin to point to the possible culprits. He knows something is being planned. Now he just needs to figure out what.

The first act of "Takers" is fairly strong. It gets right to the point by having the main characters carry out the robbery at the bank and having them escape via a news helicopter that they trick into landing right on top of the building. Then the film takes a good, long rest as it slogs through the second act, which is where many of the problems arise.

The main focus of this act is on Welles trying to track down the robbers while at the same time, showing us little scenes of the main characters planning the next heist, when in fact, it should have been the other way around. The focus on Welles is what bogs down this act, putting the attention on the less interesting aspect of it. By doing this, the filmmakers are losing precious time to establish the other characters, whom we're supposed to care about by the time they carry out the main heist.

By the time it gets around to the heist, the audience is expecting something well-worth the wait, but in actuality, the heist takes up about ten minutes of the film while mainly focusing on the outcome of the characters. But after having failed to establish the characters due to the misfocused second act, there is no reason to care about what happens to them.

Some of this act, however, does come off as entertaining as that opening heist. There is an extended footchase with one of the robbers that is very reminiscent of the freerunning footchase in "Casino Royale," except this criminal is a lot less graceful when it comes to carrying out special moves while trying to get away.

This act also tries to introduce a "twist" that only works by hinging on all of the characters having very little intelligence. I'm pretty sure you'd be able to figure out this "twist" from about 20 minutes into the film, but just in case, I won't go into any more detail. The rest of the conclusion is filled with what seems like one long gunfight where several characters are being gunned down on all sides, but again, itís very hard to care when your characters are left unestablished in the third act.

Hopefully what Luessenhop and the other writers take away from this is that it takes a lot more than shootouts and obvious twists to make an engaging heist film. We shouldn't be able to see those twists and turns coming, we should care about the characters pulling off the heist every step of the way, and, though this should go without saying, the heist itself should be a lot more compelling. The best heist films have all of these things and leave you breathless. "Takers" has very little of these things and leaves you dumbfounded. 2/4 stars.
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