Walking into Takers, you can’t help but wonder not if it will be bad, but just how bad will it be. Featuring a cast of noted thespians such as Tip “T.I.” Harris and Chris Brown, and sitting on the studio’s shelf while they wait for the audience to forget about that whole Rhianna business, most films that marinate in dust for close to two years aren’t known for actually being good once they open. Color me shocked. Takers is surprisingly not half bad. While it certainly has it’s moments of ridiculousness, who can’t say the same for Heat once the rose colored glasses are off?
The film begins with the crew (which includes Paul Walker and Idris Elba) taking down a bank that they have meticulously planned. This robbery gets the attention of LAPD Det. Jack Welles, played by Matt Dillon, chewing the scenery for all it’s worth. I can only imagine his first day on set the director (John Luessenhop) walked up to Dillon and said, “Matt, you’ve heard of the slow burn, right? We don’t want any of that stuff in this movie. Just full on crazy, right from the start!” During Dillon’s performance, all I could think of was Philip Baker Hall’s unbelievably hard-boiled library cop Lt. Bookman on “The Library” episode of Seinfeld. I kept expecting him to yell at his partner for spilling crumbs on his floormats. His character is like Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz, only this time hated by his department for good reason.
While celebrating, their former partner Ghost (Harris) , recently released from prison, reappears into their lives with a lucrative armored truck heist plan worth $20 million that has to be pulled off in five days. T.I.’s performance is the hardest for me to come to grips with. Even walking out of the theatre, I couldn’t quite figure out if it was horrible or great. It was just so out of place. He is playing a character that scares everyone in a room, but these are all men who have shown that they can handle business when it comes to violence, and T.I. strongly resembles a 4 foot tall rat. You just don’t buy him as the character.
The weight of the film falls on the shoulders of Elba and Walker, who respond admirably. This is Elba’s breakout role, if the females in the audience of the screening I was attending are any indication. Elba and Walker are the only two actors given any real meat to their characters. Perhaps the surprise of the film was in the performance of supporting actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who acted circles around nearly everyone else in the cast as Naomi, Elba’s sister with a substance abuse problem.
Luessenhoop’s direction actually shows promise, other than a ridiculous slow motion helicopter explosion at the beginning of the movie. Seriously, after The Other Guys, let’s nix the explosions for a little while guys. It’s not going to be taken serious for a couple of years at least. Michael Barrett’s (Bobby) cinematography is outstanding, especially during the scenes between Elba and Jean-Baptiste. They include perhaps my favorite handheld moments caught on film with a digital camera ever.
Walking into Takers, I was sure it would horrible. I guess that’s why I don’t write these reviews in advance.
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