I’ll be the first to say that the younger generation doesn’t appreciate some of the finer things of the recent past, from film to music.  So when I heard a few comparisons of Takers to the Michael Mann classic Heat, I laughed out loud.  There’s no way a movie built around T.I. and Chris Brown can hold a candle to one featuring the likes of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro.  After seeing Takers for myself I haven’t changed my mind about that comparison, but I was pleasantly surprised that the movie exceeded my limited expectations.  Takers was a well-paced, intense movie that made the most of its cast and their capabilities.

Set in Los Angeles, the movie opens with a bank heist by a group of five men.  The men don’t enter the bank with guns blazing; rather they assemble on a vacant floor of the office building that houses the bank, preparing for the job there.  Clearly they’ve done their homework, right down to a brilliant escape plan.  The group is lead by Gordon and John, portrayed by Idris Elba (The Losers) and Paul Walker (Fast & Furious).  Chris Brown (This Christmas), Michael Ealy (Seven Pounds), and Hayden Christensen (Jumper) round out the cast.  They gather at a nearby location and divvy up the spoils, each departing in some sleek mode of transport.  As a unit, the group is cohesive and functions well, with each person knowing their role.  Ealy and Brown are brothers Jake and Jesse.  As A.J., Christensen handles the recon duties.  No reason is given for how and why this hodgepodge group of bandits decided to make their living by taking from others, but they ostensibly are very successful at what they do.  Each is impeccably dressed from head to toe, and their homes resemble those featured on MTV Cribs.  VIP treatment is what they expect.  They are cocky and daring, and life is good.

But things get interesting when a sixth member of the crew resurfaces.  Enter T.I. as Ghost, who is fresh off a 6 year bid in Chino.  He was busted while doing a job in ’04 with the gang, but kept his mouth shut.  He emerges from prison to find that his former love Lilly (Zoe Saldana, Avatar) has taken up with Jake, who has recently proposed after their successful bank heist.  Ghost also wants his share of the loot from the ’04 job.  His old mates aren’t exactly thrilled to see him, and they are even more skeptical when he wants to jump right into a new job.  Ghost wants to rob a few armored cars for about 30 million.  They would only have a few days to prepare.  They usually wait a year between jobs, but Ghost presses the issue and eventually greed takes over.  These guys are takers after all, as Gordon points out.  Their job is to take, so why not?  Although they pulled off the opening bank heist successfully, the takers have drawn the ire and attention of two police officers, played by Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez.  As Jack Welles, Dillon is smart and tough, but one step behind.  He spends most of the movie trying to piece it all together while side-stepping Internal Affairs.  The movie centers around the Takers’ ability to pull off the armored car heist while avoiding detection from law enforcement and keeping an eye on Ghost, whom they do not fully trust.

I would give Takers a strong 3 out of 4 stars.  The movie was not perfect.  Both T.I. and Chris Brown gave admirable performances, but I felt that their limited experience was evident in a few scenes and with the way they delivered their lines at times.  Also, the movie was a bit self-aware.  Clearly made for an MTV generation, Takers was all flash.  We get it, these guys are cool.  It worked for the most part because Idris Elba added some much needed heft to the movie.  I don’t know if it was his natural British accent or the fact that he was given a richer back story involving a drug-addicted sister (wonderfully played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste of Without a Trace), butElba’s presence really elevated the movie.  You’ll hear many women praise the movie because of its “eye candy,” but there were some good performances.  I think Michael Ealy, Idris Elba, and Hayden Christensen were best in their roles.  T.I. was amateurish at times, but he showed flashes of potential in his portrayal of Ghost as a greedy and vengeful nemesis.  Paul Walker is lovely to look at it, but sometimes I think he attended the Keanu Reeves school of acting.  His omnipresent surfer dude intonation is passable in a movie set inL.A., but he comes across as a one note actor most of the time.  Love you Paul!

All in all, Takers doesn’t revolutionize the caper genre, but it is a solid addition.  Slick and stylish, it is sure to please most moviegoers.  The acting was surprisingly up to par, and there were several thrilling scenes that permeated with suspense and tension.  You won’t be disappointed.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

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