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Review: Takers

3 10

PLOT: A group of daredevil thieves (Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen) are pushed into a dangerous armored car robbery by a recently paroled ex-colleague (T.I), while simultaneously being hunted by a dogged cop (Matt Dillon), and his partner (Jay Hernandez).

REVIEW: The biggest (unintentional) laugh I got out while watching the sneak preview of TAKERS the other night came during the closing credits, when no less than four writers were listed as having worked on the screenplay. This includes director John Luessenhop. The reason I found the number of writers so funny was that apparently it took four guys just to write a film thatís essentially an MTV CRIBS version of HEAT, with a little ITALIAN JOB (remake) mixed in.

Michael Mann should sue the makers of TAKERS (hey, that rhymes). Itís incredible how blatantly they ripped-off HEAT. From the Cops ní Robbers plot, having Matt Dillon stand-in for Al Pacino, and Idris Elba for De Niro, to the big action set-piece set in a crowded L.A street, to the climatic shoot-out at an airfield, thereís nothing in TAKERS that wasnít stolen from Mann. Heck, Luessenhop even tries to ape his visual style, with lots of high-end DV, and hand-held camera work. The only way it could be more obvious would be if some Brian Eno, or Moby was used on the soundtrack, instead of a hilariously melodramatic and unoriginal score by Paul Haslinger (coincidentally, a former member of Tangerine Dream- which was Mannís go-to group during his THIEF/THE KEEP days).

Being a huge fan of Michael Mann (HEATís easily in my top 20 all-time best movie list); I found it impossible to take TAKERS seriously; as I knew there wasnít a shred of originality in it. However, even if I had never seen HEAT, I probably would have still hated TAKERS. Director Luessenhop, while stealing much from Mann, obviously wasnít able to figure out how Mann managed to stage a good action sequence. TAKERS has a few big action set pieces, and some of them would actually be pretty decent if they werenít so terribly shot and edited. Thereís a big Parkour inspired foot chase involving Chris Brown and Matt Dillon that might have been effective, but is so clumsily shot that itís impossible to make out whoís chasing who.

In all fairness to Luessenhop, I think heís handicapped a bit by the PG-13 rating, and nowhere is this more evident than the big hotel shootout. Apparently the MPAA has set a limit on how loud gunshots can be in a PG-13 film, so during this lengthy shootout, all of the sound FX have been excised, and replaced by bass notes on the soundtrack. Instead of being exciting, the whole sequence comes off as silly.

This sequence in particular suggests that TAKERS is yet another film thatís been cut to ribbons by the studio distributing it. It was shot way back in 2008, a point thatís driven home by T.Iís character, who was busted in 2004 and complains about having spent four years in the joint. Itís sat on the shelf for AT LEAST eighteen months, and was once hilariously titled BONE DEEP, until sanity prevailed.

The one thing TAKERS sort-of has going for it is the cast, but even thatís a mixed bag. On the plus side, weíve got Idris Elba and Matt Dillon. Elbaís a ridiculously talented guy who killed on THE WIRE for five seasons. In films he still hasnít found his niche, but I have faith that at some point heís going to establish himself as a top-shelf talent. While the film is unfocused, he has a few decent moments, especially in a subplot involving his crack-addicted sister, whoís just ditched rehab and is proving herself to be a big liability to Elbaís big score. As for Dillon- it must be said that the guyís somewhat squandered the momentum he had going after his Oscar nomination for CRASH in films like ARMORED, or YOU, ME & DUPREE. However, heís still not a bad actor, as heís effective in the cop role, even if itís riddled with all the standard clichťs (young, inexperienced partner, mean ex-wife, problems with internal affairs, etc.).

Unfortunately, the rest of the B-list cast canít measure up to Elba and Dillon. Michael Ealyís not bad in his thinly written role, but Chris Brown (whose thuggish, girlfriend beating episode is likely one of the reasons TAKERS sat of the shelf for so long) is incredibly amateurish is the younger, hot-head of the group. Heís even out-acted by another musician, rapper T.I, who plays the villain, although his narration-style dialogue (oh daaaaamn, heís jackiní the truck!!!) during the big heist sequence adds yet another unintentional laugh to the film.

Brown aside, the worst actor award here has to go to Hayden Christensen. A little tough-guy swagger (his efforts at speaking street makes him sound more like Turtle from ENTOURAGE than anything else), a pork-pie hat, and a bunch of tats arenít nearly enough to make him believable as a badass. Paul Walker, a bland pretty boy in his own right with a nothing role, comes off like Steve McQueen compared to Christensen. As for Zoe Saldana, whoís prominently featured in the ads, well, letís just say itís obvious this was shot before STAR TREK, and long before AVATAR came out, as thereís no way sheíd ever pop up in a B-flick like this after her recent success. Here, she gets two quick scenes as the sexy girlfriend before being written-off.

I guess I shouldnít be surprised TAKERS is as bad as it is considering itís being dumped in the dreaded last weekend in August (or as I call it ďweekend of the damnedĒ). TAKERS is a film that totally deserves this terrible release date, as itís completely devoid of originality, and reeks of hack-filmmaking at itís worse. As I stated earlier- Michael Mann should sue!





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