Review by Jack Foley
IT’S not often that you get a film that steals so blatantly from other movies in its genre and yet still retains a high level of entertainment. But John Luessenhop’s Takers does just that with considerable aplomb.
The film follows a gang of five playboy bank robbers (Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and ex-singer Chris Brown) whose record for getting away is impeccable until a former colleague (singer Tip T.I. Harris) gets out of jail and guilt trips them into doing an armoured-car job that puts them on the radar of two dedicated cops (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez) and some Russian mobsters.
Needless to say, the influences are obvious, from Michael Mann’s Heat to Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break via the remake of The Italian Job (which one of the characters does, at least, have the good grace to reference), only with a teen-friendly 12A certificate in mind.
Somehow, though, Takers survives as a proper guilty pleasure thanks to some smart performances and a handful of really well-staged set pieces.
Of the latter sequences, a foot chase ripped straight out of Bigelow’s copybook still manages to be breathlessly urgent and exciting, while at least two of the heist sequences are well orchestrated and boast the kind of running street gunfights that have become a Mann trademark.
Dillon’s ruthlessly determined cop, who regularly puts career ahead of family, feels like a low-budget imitation of Al Pacino’s character in Heat, while the five debonair bank robbers are part slickly dressed go-getters (a la Thomas Crown?) and part joy-riders whose illegal pursuits are used to payroll their fancy lifestyle (a la Point Break’s thrill-seeking surfers).
Walker, meanwhile, continues to riff on his laidback persona from the Fast & Furious movies, which are in themselves, derivative of Bigelow.
I could go on listing the innumerable references, but I think you get the gist.
But with this in mind, Takers does manage one or two nice plot twists of its own in terms of character development and betrayals, while the performances are good enough to hold the attention throughout even some of the more contrived and ambiguous story elements.
Elba, in particular, brings grit and edge as one of the gang members, Dillon is as watchable as ever as the cop on their trail, and Harris portrays the fresh out of jail newcomer to the crew with a suitable amount of distrust and envy.
It’s just a shame that Luessenhop didn’t feel prepared to take a few more risks, either with plot or set pieces, which could have given the film a greater sense of its own identity and standing within the genre.
As things stand, it’s a passable crowd-pleaser that’s very much a triumph for style over substance. But you get the feeling it could have offered so much more.
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 7, 2011