mon 17/02/2020

Takers | reviews, news & interviews



A powerful cast can't save this from its litany of crime-movie clichés

Chris Brown (left) and Michael Ealy as Jesse and Jake Attica, two of the style-obsessed armed robbers in 'Takers'

Over there is the gang who give the movie its title (though it was originally going to be called Bone Deep), because they take stuff, mostly money. They’re a suave and dude-ish bunch, headed by Idris Elba exuding his usual intimidating air of authority as Gordon Betts, and Paul Walker as John Rahway, a kind of Sundance Kid in a suit. The gang are a bit like the Ocean’s Eleven crew, all hip, smart and stylish, though with an extra lethal edge, since director John Luessenhop has crammed the narrative with explosions, cacophonous gun battles and piles of bullet-flayed corpses.

The movie opens with the crew pulling off a spectacular bank raid with SAS-style efficiency, cunningly making their getaway from the top of a skyscraper in a stolen TV news helicopter. It’s an impeccable job, because they’ve made a rule of limiting themselves to one major raid per year. Rigorous planning and discipline is their insurance against getting caught. But guess what. One of their ex-associates is just out of jail (that’s Ghost, played with a further infusion of maximum, drawling cool by actor and rapper Tip “T I” Harris), and he has brought them all the inside information they need to hold up an armoured car loaded with 12 million bucks. Snag is, the job is in five days’ time. They bat the arguments back and forth. Betts insists they stick to their one-job-a–year rule, others argue that Ghost can’t be trusted (especially since gang member Jake has stolen his girl), but ultimately the prize is too big to pass up. The heist is on, and the clock is ticking like a suspect device.

Takers_Group_mainThe story hurtles glossily and twistily towards a conclusion which, oddly enough, turns exceedingly violent. The tension is stoked by Welles’s dogged and frequently fortuitous progress in tracking the gang - the way he happens to stumble across a couple of critical pieces of evidence irritatingly un-suspends your disbelief with glimpses into the backstage machinery - while interventions from a bunch of ruthless Russian mobsters lend a touch of the Guy Ritchies to proceedings. It’s quite exciting, expertly shot, and wholly unoriginal (pictured above: Idris Elba, right, and his crew).

Except that isn’t quite it. Thanks to the high calibre of the players, every so often Takers offers glimpses of the much better movie it could have been. These moments frequently involve Elba, and quite often Marianne Jean-Baptiste too (FBI agent Vivian Johnson in TV’s Without a Trace, and a Londoner like Elba). Here, she’s his shambolic junkie sister Naomi, the plot’s wild card who inadvertently chucks a spanner in the gang’s works.

Elba’s crew, too, are more interesting than the usual celluloid felons-in-arms. With Chris Brown and Michael Ealy playing the Attica brothers, and Hayden “Jumper” Christensen as the street-smart A J, they’re bling-gangsters with a hip-hop ambience, obsessed with aspirational acquisitions (expensive clothes, stylish cars and motorcycles, fine wines and women out of designer catalogues). They’d make superb raw material for a TV series, a kind of culturally updated Sopranos shifted to the West Coast and with all the Italian taken out.

Dream on, because we only have the movie to go on. It makes a diverting evening out, but you'll never find its title chiselled into Hollywood Boulevard.

Watch the Takers trailer:

They're bling-gangsters with a hip-hop ambience, obsessed with aspirational acquisitions

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