By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 28, 2013 at 4:56PM
I watched this over the weekend, while revisiting previous Rainforest Films productions, as the company continues to build upon past successes, with even more successful films (see Think Like A Man last year. Also, 2014 should be a big year for the company).
I figured I'd share my thoughts on the company's first heist thriller, Takers. Look for more reviews of past Rainforest films in coming week.
You've seen it all before; the heist film; a job of a lifetime; big payday if the thieves can pull it off; everything seems to be running along smoothly, until something goes wrong; of course, right, because something always has to go wrong. If it didn't, we wouldn't have much of a film. That's one thing I actually didn't particularly care for with the Oceans 11 movies, as much I liked them. You never really got the sense that there were any stakes for the crew. Everything almost always worked in their favor, and even when they were presented with an unexpected wrinkle in their plans, you always knew that they would find a way to iron things out. They always seemed 10 steps ahead of their opponents.
But I digress... a little... as I was saying, in the end, something always goes wrong - they get too cocky; somebody forgets to do something, or leaves a clue unintentionally; somebody's past catches up to them, and has to be dealt with; somebody has a wife, or girlfriend, or other family member that unknowingly, if only because they were written into the story for that specific purpose, creates problems for them. A string of unfortunate, unexpected events, happen, one after the other, eventually blowing up the comfortable balloon that they all mostly felt they were in. Untouchable!
If you've seen films like Asphalt Jungle, Rififi, The Killing, Across 110th Street, and even Set It Off, you've seen Takers. Except, it's their much leaner, noisier, frenetic younger brother, who hasn't quite grown up yet, but has a promising future. The earlier films will probably tell Takers to get out of the room so they could have a serious, grownup conversation! But it knows its place very well, and that's a good thing. It's not trying to be anything but what it is - a derivative, yet passable, and mostly entertaining action movie. You won't think much of it once you exit the theater, but you'll have SOME fun during its 110-minute running time. You might even be impressed with 1 or two action set-pieces. For example, there's a sequence - maybe one of the best sequences in the film - in which Chris Brown is being chased by Matt Dillon's obsessed cop, and his partner, played by Jay Hernandez. It must have run for a good 5 minutes. There are numerous acrobatic moves by Chris, as he dodges bullets being sprayed his way, while seemingly sprinting like a cheetah.
The film tries to create emotional attachments, so that it doesn't appear too shallow. But I'd say that, for its target audience, the more dramatic scenes will likely be of little interest. Several of the characters - both the cops and the robbers - are given subplots involving family members or lovers. One has a sister who's a recovering drug addict; two are brothers who have a father in jail, but seem to disagree on their interest in his plight; one of them has a lover who later becomes a fiancee; another has a daughter whom he neglects; etc, etc, etc... each subplot partly meant to give the associated characters added depth, but also, in some cases, interjected as the proverbial mcguffin. If you thought far enough ahead, you'd see a lot of things coming before they do. Like I said, it's not exactly original, nor are there any surprises nor twists in the story... at least, none that should catch you off-guard.
Except for raptor (rapper turned actor) T.I., most of the cast did its job, given how thin the character-driven material was. There isn't much dialogue, just an infusion of testosterone. Lots of chest pounding, grandstanding, and ostentation. The men were almost always superbly dressed, slick and suave - from Idris Elba, to Michael Ealy, to Paul Walker, Chris Brown and more; which should appeal to women fans - the cast of mandy (Man Candy).
But there's also enough action built-in for the boys and the men. However, it's PG13 action, so don't expect much blood and gore here. No T&A either, despite Zoe Saldana's presence as Ealy's love interest.
John Luessenhop's direction is firm. The camera and editing are a little too unwieldy at times, but I'd say that Tony Scott would be proud, if you know what I mean.
I should add that it was kind of refreshing to see black faces in roles that would normally be relegated to white men. These aren't necessarily desperate, working class thieves looking for a quick exit out of poverty, as was the case in films like Set It Off, and Across 110th Street. These were what society would call white collar criminals - rich, smart, efficient, and greedy! Their motivation for stealing is not all that different from the Wall Street and corporate world crooks. They're already rich, but they want to be richer. And they steal because they can - not petty cash-robbing either; we're talking multi-million dollar paydays.
So, ultimately I got what I expected. A shallow thrill ride, and there were enough action set-pieces to keep me entertained. I laughed a few times at certain outlandish sequences, but, screw it, we should be allowed to enjoy our own brand of absurdity on film, shouldn't we?
So it's not a film I'd dismiss. I think it has its place, and certainly its audience, and should do well amongst women and the Generation Y set.