Directed by John Luessenhop
With co-stars Tip "T.I." Harris and Chris Brown sporting producer credits, it's difficult not to imagine Takers as a B-level Heat fantasy camp, sometimes in both senses of the word. Harris gets to play Ghost, just out of prison following a four-year stint for robbery; he was the only member of an elite heist team to go down. Brown is his replacement in the group that includes Idris Elba, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, and a variety of suits and hats. Ghost approaches his wary former colleagues with the proverbial last big score, one that seems profoundly unnecessary given the luxury in which every taker already seems to live. The team, then, should remain suspicious of Ghost's intentions (even he has a stash of heist money waiting for him), which they sort of are, and also suspicious of their own interest in risking their lives for money they by no accounts need, which they mostly aren't.
This is consistent with the way director John Luessenhop luxuriates in wealth; there's casual chatter, for example, about portfolios, investments, even charities, over swanky brunch at a penthouse. It turns out the problem with Heat is that it didn't more closely resemble a rap video—though Takers at least looks like a stylish one, with its oaky clubs, modern Los Angeles architecture, and rat-packy camaraderie (I imagine this is also a bit of a fantasy camp for handsome white boys Walker and Christensen). T.I., it must be said, is a pretty terrible actor; he recites all his laans the same whay, in the same drawling, emphasized cadence that recalls a kid in a school play. But intentionally or not, his attempts to smoothly criminalize alongside the rest of the gang, who spend a lot of time shaking each other's hands and referring to each other as "gents," feel correct in their awkwardness; the gang's discomfort with him is palpable. His bad performance keeps him at bay, an insinuating outsider.
Luessenhop does overindulge in video-like fast cuts and close-ups; what might have been a virtuoso action sequence with Chris Brown taking police on a long, desperate foot chase is rendered merely enjoyable by stunt-fudging edits (it also has the misfortune to feature Brown, an athletic fellow whose lady-beating extracurriculars make it difficult to cheer for in violence or otherwise, unfair as that may be). But despite all of the style tics, the cliches, the occasional indulgence in calculated doomed-gangster romanticism, and the (unsmooth) criminal underuse of Zoe Saldana as a mere love interest when she could clearly beat the stuffing out of at least half of the gents, Takers actually sort of works. The pace is fleet and Luessenhop concocts a reasonable mix of pulpy action and human emotion.
Not that the human emotion isn't also pretty pulpy; Matt Dillon is on hand for some budget-Pacino intensity as the cop obsessed with taking everyone down. This, incidentally, is the latest in a recent series of heist movies starring some combination of Dillon, Elba, Saldana, and Columbus Short (who would've been welcome here, but alas). It's not as tight or suspenseful as Armored nor as much winking fun as The Losers, but as this rep company's late-summer B-movie, it gets the job done.
Opens August 27