Though it works hard to be a slick, modern heist thriller, Takers is the embodiment of mediocrity. The cast of Takers is diverse in both ethnicity and acting talent, and the tired cops-and-robbers storyline does the film no favors. Characters pop in and out of the action so frequently you need a call sheet to keep up, and action sequences are disappointingly generic. And while a few of its character notes ring true, the drama of Takers quickly becomes tiring.
A group of high-rolling bank robbers likes to take expensive things, hence the film's generic title. Led by Gordon Cozier (Idris Elba), the group, comprised of John (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen) Jesse (rapper Chris Brown) and Jake (Michael Ealy), hopes to ride one last big score into retirement. Their plans change when former partner Ghost (rapper T.I.), who served five years in prison after the group botched a job, guilts them into knocking off an armored car carrying $20 million. This rushed heist attracts the attention of two detectives (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez), who work to take down the elusive crew.
If the narrative of Takers sounds familiar, that's because it is. At its core, the film mimics nearly every heist movie of the last decade. Takers attempts to differentiate itself with a slick cast and visual style, but throws so much at the screen that none of it really sticks. The film's first problem lies in its inability to decide the importance of each character. The cast, filled with A- and B-list actors, gets varying amounts of screen time, but the film has an annoying habit of focusing on the characters at random. Cozier anchors the film, and he's given a crackhead sister as motivation for getting out of the heist game. He is the closest thing to a father figure the gang has, so his opinion matters. Other than the police detectives, John is the next best choice to label as one of the film's leads. Takers gives him a nice car and a pool romp with two pretty ladies. The film treats the rest of the cast like major bit players, teasing viewers with scenes that seem important to the story but often are not.
Director John Luessenhop gives Takers some cool visual flairs, and a few early scenes of the dapper dandy cast hint that the film might become a trendy, neo-noir potboiler. Unfortunately, its early style is overcome by some rather ugly visuals courtesy of the Panavision Genesis HD camera. I read another review comparing the look of Takers with that of a liquor advertisement, and I concur. The neon-cool palette is spoiled by HD more smeared than normal. Luessenhop also cannot keep the camera still, and the editing is so frenetic that I had difficulty getting a sense of time and location in nearly every scene. I appreciate a stylish film as much as the next person, but a character's simple walk from Point A to Point B doesn't need 27 cuts.
As a whole, Takers is less bad than forgettable. The cast looks the part, but the acting is all over the board. Elba and Walker are at one end of the spectrum, while T.I. and Chris Brown overact at the other. None of the characters are very deep, and what little back story the film presents is humdrum. The action, up to and including the lame climactic showdown that feels like a poor man's Heat, is nothing spectacular either. Takers should fit nicely into the rotation at TNT, and, if you're curious, you can likely watch it three times a day on cable within the year.
I wasn't blown away by film's HD visuals, and the same can be said about Sony's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The source material is slick and rough, and the transfer replicates the chaos. The entire affair occasionally appears soft and hazy, and the contrast is kicked way up. Detail varies, but the film is so vigorously edited that it's difficult to get a handle on individual shots anyway. Blacks can move toward murky and crushing in some scenes and gray in other high-contrast shots. Pixelation issues pop up occasionally, but I noticed no glaring examples of edge enhancement. The film looks rough on DVD, but I cannot blame the transfer for my discontent with the source.
The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is also hit or miss. Action is generally loud and impressive, but the track occasionally feels muffled, as if the filmmakers recorded all audio on location. To that end, dialogue is occasionally muddled, and I found myself straining to understand the characters in several scenes. I suspect the sound design for the film was deliberate, and the track has more than a few moments of rumbling bass and great aural movement through the speakers. A French 5.1 track, as well as English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are available.
The lowly DVD viewer gets little in the way of bonus content. The Commentary with Director John Luessenhop, Producer Will Packer and Tip "T.I." Harris seems to indicate the cast and crew enjoyed making the film more than I enjoyed watching it. The group discusses the shoot, locations and cast, as well as the film's visual style and action set-ups. The only other extras are a music video for T.I.'s "Yeah Ya Know (Takers)" (4:33) and bonus previews.
Despite a cast of popular young actors and a flashy visual style, Takers is another tired heist film that offers little to make it unique. The story is fragmented and cliché, and Takers fails to excel as an action film or character drama. Takers is not offensively bad, and it will likely wind up on cable rotation in the near future. Sony's DVD replicates the film's uneven picture and sound but skimps on extras. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.