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Non-Review Review: Takers

The obvious point of comparison for Takers is The Town, Ben Affleck’s bank-robbing thriller that opened around the same time. However, I think it’s a misleading comparison, if only because Affleck’s film feels far more specific and nuanced in scope than this heist thriller. Instead, I think the best point of reference for this particular feature film is to consider is as Heat for the MTV generation.” Of course, any film’s going to come out quite badly from that synopsis, but I do think it’s fair, as it speaks to both the strengths and (perhaps more importantly) the weaknesses of this particular film.

Are the crew being taken for a ride?

Of course, Michael Mann’s definitive bank robber thriller did influence Affleck’s little project, but it still feels like Takers is a more conscious attempt to emulate that nineties classic. There’s more of a sense of balance to the story, with Matt Dillon getting top billing as a police officer handling the investigation into a crew of bank robbers. If you guessed that his family life suffers because of his devotion to the job, you’d be entirely correct. And against this character, the movie sets up a bunch of high-skill criminals plotting and executing their own daring heist.

The film is ridiculously shallow. There’s no complexity to any of it. It uses all the staples of modern action movies and thrillers to bring its story to life, but there’s no moment where the movie really engages. We get lots of quick cuts, with footage filmed on “shaky cam” for that extra gritty style. We get helicopter pans around helicopters swerving in the sky. We get cool ensemble shots of our crew of badass bank robbers walking away from an explosion without flinching, while driving away in their distinctive cool cars, which tell us more about their personalities than almost anything else in the film.

All the fast-paced editing in the world can't cover this film's flaws...

The movie doesn’t really tell us anything about these people, save what can be delivered in montage. The longest lingering shots are of stylish Los Angeles apartments with lavish water features, while we not only get montages for operational prep work, but even trying on a suit and tie. Hell, we’re treated to a music-video-style collection of clips illustrating how much fun these guys are having on nights out. There are times when the start of the movie feels like a rather empty commercial for how great having millions of dollars must be. It’s soulless, and stylish. It looks pretty, but vacant.

It does help that, of the cast, only Matt Dillon and Idris Elba seem to be putting any effort in at all. Dillon works hard when he’s given good material, but he really seems genuinely disinterested when asked to spout generic exposition about the rather convoluted way he comes to track down the team of bank robbers. That said, I’ve always liked Dillon, and he really does the best anyone could with the cliché “internal affairs” and “bad dad”plotlines he’s given. Elba similarly does well with fairly bland drama, and I honestly think he’s the only member of the cast I really felt one way or the other about by the end of the film.

A look into the underground world of bank robberies...

I think a huge part of the problem is the awkward soap opera antics that the movie indulges in. Aside from footage of people living luxurious lifestyles and being glamorous, the only thing that seems to genuinely upset a recently released robber is the fact that his girlfriend has hooked up with another man. Meanwhile, Idris Elba’s character deals with his own family drama. None of this feels real or organic, it just feels sensationalised and flat. I don’t buy that these people are professionals, and the film does nothing to convince me that they are the best they are at what they do.

There are several points in the film where it alludes to greatness. One can detect a fondness for Michael Mann’s Heat in th way the story is structured, but there’s also a sequence in which a cop takes his little girl on an impromptu stakeout (“what are you gunning for, father of the year?” he partner goads him). In many ways, it reminded me of a sequence in The Wire, which featured Idris Elba, but was executed with infinitely more skill. Later on, the move does what far too many blockbusters do, in quoting a famous historical figure to seem intelligent. Here the robbers compare themselves to Genghis freakin’ Khan, because he “saw what he wanted, reached out and took it, just like us.”That’s deep.

Taking their shot...

In fairness, the movie does pick up a bit in the second half. This is partially because a well-choreographed heist sequence which actually suits the rapid-fire editing  that the film seems so fond of, but mainly because the script suddenly starts using clichés that gel a lot better with the core premise. It’s still not great, but it finds a better fit for a bank robbing thriller with moments that borrow from the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, involve a three-way stand-off, feature an easy-to-predict double-cross, and even include a fairly trite closing shot.

None fo these moments are exceptional, and none are really carried off with any great degree of skill, but they feel much better than the nonsense we get earlier in the film. In many ways, Takers is a movie that starts off decidedly disappointing, and ends up around average. That’s probably not something to be especially proud of. “We’re takers, gents,” one character boasts at one point. “That’s what we do for a living. We take.” Maybe they should have taken a bit more time with the script.

2 Responses

  1. This one for me is a total guilty pleasure because even though the script is incredibly lame and many of the things that happen here don’t have one bit of originality, I still found myself deeply entertained by it all. Maybe it was just T.I.’s performance after all. Good Review!

    • Thanks man. I don’t know. Parts of it were entertaining if you went along with it, but too much of it was just too empty for me.

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