Taking And Wasting Time Is A Crime
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
Life is sometimes unfair.
I’m starting off with that terribly trite observation in order to justify my harsh and very likely unfair assessment of Takers, the new crime thriller from co-writer/director John Luessenhop (Lockdown with master thespian Master P). The movie goes out of its way to draw comparisons to films like Heat, True Romance and The Italian Job, but it never emerges from the long shadows cast by those far superior efforts.
Takers shares narrative DNA with Heat in that it focuses on a high-end heist crew as conceived for a layout in GQ with slim pretty boys (Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen), an R&B lover boy (Chris Brown), a rap gangsta (TI), and one real smooth criminal (Idris Elba). Elba made a name for himself on the HBO series The Wire as Stringer Bell, but will likely be remembered as the new Alex Cross, if the reboot of author James Patterson’s detective series hits the bullseye. He proves to be the real deal here, taking the clichés and fashioning a character out of the pieces, while setting the standard for suave whip appeal that these young cats just can’t match even at their airbrushed best. If only the producers had dumped the other guys or at least had them do more than strike pretty poses as a means of defining their characters. Quentin Tarantino reminded us in Pulp Fiction that just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character. That’s advice to which the creative team here should have paid attention.
And again in terms of Heat, this heist wants us to identify with the cops as well as the robbers, so we get the hard-driven Jack Welles (Matt Dillon who is close to becoming little more than the brother of Entourage’s Johnny Drama) who is under investigation by Internal Affairs for being a hard-driving detective. We’ve been there and done that folks. Can we use another shade in the box of crayolas? There’s no character and no drama on either side of the law and order game, it seems.
But (and let’s just say there’s a big but here), Takers could have been something special, given a bit more detail and less style for style’s sake. Elba and Dillon could have certainly sharpened the dramatic angles. Further, with more time devoted to setting up the efforts of both sides to do their jobs, while dealing with more intimate personal complications, Takers might have truly approached the level of Heat or even Scarface, which the intended audience is probably expecting. An extra 45 minutes of story and this could have been a contender, but as it stands, Takers is just an inferior exercise in genre stylings and that’s not fair.
Takers can be seen at Rave The Greene 14, Rave Dayton South and more.