“Takers” is the kind of movie where tough guys walk away from an explosion, in slow-motion, without looking behind them. But don’t worry! It is also the kind of movie where a man leaps sideways, in slow-motion, while firing two guns at the same time! And the kind of movie where that man is Hayden Christensen!
If you’re not hooked already, I don’t know what else I can tell you. Directed generically by John Luessenhop from a screenplay written blandly by him and three others, “Takers” is a buffet of Gritty Crime Drama cliches that offers no surprises but nothing egregiously stupid, either. Basically, you shouldn’t see it on purpose, but if you are abducted and required to see it, don’t feel like you need to struggle too hard to get away.
Our heroes (I think) are a group of suave, handsome bank robbers. Always dressed to the nines and prone to lounging in the finest nightclubs after a job, these are fancy thieves! And a good-looking bunch they are, too. Christensen plays A.J., who is a street-wise Ivy Leaguer, which means he has tattoos AND a stupid hat. Idris Elba is Gordon, a British cat with a drug-addled aunt (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) causing him problems. Michael Ealy and noted Rihanna-puncher Chris Brown play brothers Jake and Jesse, and Paul Walker is their leader, John.
What’s that you say? Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen in the same movie? That’s like having a movie with a plank of wood in it, and then also, in that same movie, having an identical plank of wood!
These guys, the takers, are the ones we’re supposed to sympathize with, of course, what with the natty clothing and general smoothness. But pursuing them are a couple of cops, Jack (Matt Dillon) and Eddie (Jay Hernandez). One is a loose cannon who doesn’t play by the rules, while the other is a family man with a sick kid.
The takers have just finished a job when their old associate, Ghost (Tip “T.I.” Harris), gets out of prison with info on a new heist they could pull. Ghost got caught during a robbery back in ’04, and the crew isn’t sure whether they can trust him or if he’s bitter about doing time. They’re also on edge because Jake is now dating Ghost’s ex-girlfriend (Zoe Saldana).
You see all these elements and you think: These spare parts could be fashioned into something reasonably entertaining. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a movie to be formulaic. You do wish for just a hint of originality, though. Just a trace? Just one thing that we haven’t seen in every other Gritty Crime Drama? Alas, no, it’s the usual Internal Affairs breathing down a cop’s neck, and a squirrelly informant saying, “I don’t know nothin’ about that!,” and detectives using a hand gesture caught on a surveillance camera to determine who a masked bandit is.
Luessenhop (whose only other film, 2000’s “Lockdown,” was a violent prison drama) directs the action scenes chaotically, as is the style of the day, so that even a sequence where Chris Brown does parkour (!) is rendered less exciting than it should have been. Thematically, the story itself is just as jumbled: Whose side are we on? The question of who’s “right” and who’s “wrong” seems to have been decided randomly, or perhaps based on the relative fame of the cast members. You can’t take the movie as seriously as it wants to be taken, but it will not bore you when it shows up in heavy rotation on HBO in a few months.
C+ (1 hr., 47 min.; )