Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: John Luessenhop
Screenwriters: Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus
Starring: Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dil
Takers counts among its ensemble cast both Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen, which struck me as a recipe for amusement. In their storied, too-long careers, Walker and Christensen have proved to be Hollywood’s two most vacant mainstays — dull-eyed, charmless pretty boys without a shred of real talent, personality, or even presence. At last, I thought, a movie that pits them against each other to see who can out-bore me.
It didn’t, to my surprise, turn out to be a contest. Both actors play members of a band of hotshot criminals, arrogant, amoral “takers” who see the world as their oyster because they are clever enough to devise ingenious ways to rob and steal from others. As the film opens, they execute a bank robbery planned out to the smallest detail — from the precise angle of the security cameras to the news chopper, waved down by Christensen’s A.J. dressed as a security guard, that provides their getaway. Luxuriating in the proceeds, the gang is approached by their former partner (rapper T.I.), fresh out of jail, who offers them a chance at a lucrative armed car robbery — but can they trust him?
Walker plays John Rahway, a vacuous playboy made even less memorable by Walker’s mind-numbing non-performance. But Christensen, astonishingly, makes something of his role: a skinny, heavily-tattooed, Ivy League-educated tough guy who can take out four guys twice his size — and play the piano. It’s the most compelling part in the movie, and Christensen manages to have some fun with its contradictions. He comes off as interesting, dangerous, the only one of this group of crooks you might want to spend some time with.
The movie follows our anti-heroes — a group that also includes Idris Elba (getting a rare chance to use his real British accent), Michael Ealy, and singer Chris Brown — as they plan their armored car heist, which we’re pretty sure is a double-cross. It also makes time for two troubled cops (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez), hot on their trail, trying to fend off their families and internal affairs in pursuit of their prey.
It’s familiar stuff, predictable down to a big third-act twist you’ll guess ten minutes into the film. Still, Takers is kind of fun. Director John Luessenhop knows exactly what kind of movie he’s making, and pumps it with enough energy and attitude to at the very least hold our attention. He also hits the clichés hard enough to make it clear that he’s winking at us. You’re used to flashy club scenes in movies like these, but perhaps not ones quite this garishly lit. And a dedicated cop who neglects his family may be a tired old trope, but one who takes his 12-year-old daughter along on a vehicular pursuit is pretty funny.
Luessenhop kind of gets lost in the last half hour of the movie, which is too long at an hour forty-five. What could have been a marvelous extended footchase is ruined by an ill-advised attempt to ape the Bourne films’ hyperactive camerawork. (Watching this and The Bourne Supremacy back-to-back would make a terrific primer on the definition and importance of craft.) The series of climaxes that concludes the film is too bombastic even if the copious slow motion and the sudden orchestral surge on the soundtrack were meant ironically.
This is, in other words, sloppy stuff — a B-movie in the less complimentary sense of the term, where you occasionally get the sense that people weren’t trying all that hard. Still, there’s a certain rakish charm to Takers. It never seems bored, it doesn’t hold back, and it somehow shows Hayden Christensen as an actor. Which is downright impressive.