Review: Lazy & Hollow 'Takers' is a Patchwork of Stolen Ideas
by Jeremy Kirk
August 26, 2010
Heat. True Romance. The Italian Job. District B13. All are fine films in their own right. They are also all films that get heavily ripped off by Takers, a new film about bank robbers, the cops who try to track them down, and the empty, empty world they all apparently live in. A film without character or substance, it is forced time and time again to fall back on its style for something, anything to shine through the murky waters created by all the derivation. Not even that is slick or fresh enough, and the explosion caused by all the shakiness begins on frame one and doesn't end until the credits roll. It's okay, though. It's an explosion without heat. That's why it's so easy to walk away from in slow motion.
The team of bank robbers at the center of Takers is made up of Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Chris Brown and Hayden Christensen. The cops coming after them are Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez. There are character connections strewn throughout. A couple of the robbers are brothers. Ealy's character has a relationship with Zoe Saldana. Elba's sister is in rehab. Dillon and Hernandez's characters have their own respective problems, too.
It's hard to go into detail about it all, because, frankly, there's very little care put into anything. The relationship between Elba and his sister comes off as the only engaging fork found in this road of pointless dust. Much of that is helped by Elba and Marianne Jean-Baptiste who plays the sister.
Much of it is hindered, though, by the constant self-aware direction by John Luessenhop. The man simply cannot hold the camera still for five seconds. This goes for each scene and each and every shot of Takers alike. Within the shots he composes, even during scenes of down-time, where people are having civilized conversations (civility evidently running out of the world of Takers like gasoline in a post-apocalyptic film), nothing is steady. The camera is constantly jerking back and forth in an effort to create some kind of intensity. It doesn't work. If this is how the shots are composed during conversational scenes, you can only imagine the jerky nightmare that comes when the action heats up. That is, if you cant keep yourself from unintentionally laughing at the sight of Chris Brown performing parkour. Here's a hint. It's not really Chris Brown leaping and jumping between buildings, and you can tell.
The collaboration between Luessenhop and his editor, Armen Minasian, creates some of the most difficult scenes to follow, too. As the camera is batting around the room, trying to find an actor to focus on, we're constantly cutting and cutting and cutting to a different shot. It doesn't matter that we cut from a side shot of someone to a shot of that same person in 3/4 profile, there seems to be some kind of edict here that states we can't hold on the same shot for more than a heartbeat. There is a scene early in the film where T.I., playing a former member of the gang who has just been released from prison and wants his cut of the action (the only real sense of a focused narrative the film has), is addressing the crew. There is literally a cut after every line of dialogue spoken. It's unnerving. It's distracting. It is the worst case of self-aware editing seen in recent memory.
By the time the action decides it wants to kick in, we're completely removed from any idea of story, and we could not care less for any of these characters. The action just doesn't matter. More so, it's all very predictable. You know precisely when someone is going to walk into the room, how each and every gunfight is going to end, when each and every character in this stylized piece of action is going to bite their respective bullet. It ends up being sad that nothing original could have stemmed from a film that has some respectable talent in front of its camera.
Speaking of which, the acting in Takers, more precisely the acting from each performer in Takers, is exactly what you might expect from them. Luessenhop doesn't seem to have any magical skills as a director that is going to make Walker or Christensen any more believable. T.I. and Chris Brown stumble through their lines as if acting isn't their first profession. Elba and Dillon are perfectly fine here, but you know judging from the acting seen elsewhere in the room that all stemmed from what they brought to the table.
Takers is a film in need of an identity. The action is there conceptually. Even if the parkour chase scene comes out of nowhere and seems thrown in just because that's the "cool thing" now ("now" being two years ago when Takers was actually shot), there are ideas within the action that might have worked had we been given a director who knew how to shoot it.
Basically, all you really need to know about Takers comes in a very early scene. The robbers have just gotten away from a heist by commandeering a television news helicopter. They land thechopper up in the Hollywood Hills. They plant a bomb, walk away, and as the helicopter explodes close behind them, they don't even bother to turn and take notice of it. It's a slow motion shot we've seen 8562 times before. It's something films have even made fun of, films in very recent memory. It's lazy. It's dumb. It's headache-inducing. Kind of like Takers as a whole. It makes you angry at the people who conceptualized it as much as the people who decided to fund it. The people behind Takers steal so many ideas from other films, they make the bank robbers in the actual film look like amateurs.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10