“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” is a series that focuses on movies which have a bad critical reputation, bombed in the box office, or serve as guilty pleasures. It will largely focus on genre movies, though I will venture outside of that area. Also, I am aware that originally this was supposed to be a review of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and that I have been unable to do a review of that. I will review it, but at a later time. Sorry for the inconvenience.
When it comes to the movie “Takers”, one can’t help but think of Michael Mann and his 90’s masterpiece “Heat”. It has a somewhat similar premise (bank robbers and the lone policeman who will stop at nothing to track them down), contains some striking photography and has high octane action scenes. However, it ends up coming off as “Heat” (and “The Italian Job”, the “Ocean’s 11” films and “True Romance”-this isn’t the most original movie) made by people who missed to point as to why that movie is so revered.
The film opens with a bank robbery perpetrated by a group of men who refer to themselves as “takers”. There’s leader Gordon “G” Cozier (Idris Elba), brothers Jake (Michael Ealy) and Jesse Attica (Chris Brown), Jake’s girlfriend Lily (Zoe Saldana, who has like 3-5 minutes screen time total), John Eaway (Paul Walker) who is-well, he’s there, and A.J. (Hayden Christensen) who dresses funny, plays piano and occasionally kicks ass. Life is good for these guys. They are surrounded by gorgeous women, have tons of money, and basically look like models posing for an expensive commercial.
However, there are always problems. The first of these is Ghost (Clifford Harris aka rapper T.I.), a former member of this team that has spent some time in jail, and is now out. Returning to the fold, he seemingly harbors no hard feeling towards his comrades and even has a plan for a heist involving $12 million. A few of the takers (by that, I mean like one of them) has reservations about trusting a guy they pretty much left behind that went to jail, but hey, the past is the past and he’s in. There’s no way something bad could happen.
There’s also cops on their tail. Well, at least two in Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez). Jack in particular is obsessed with catching the takers red handed once and for all. In the process, he comes off as a pretty dirty cop, not to mention an asshole and a shitty father who at one point even brings his daughter along whilst he tries to stop these guys. His partner-well, he’s his partner. There isn’t anything interesting about the guy.
From then on, it’s…to tell the truth, it all ends up feeling like it amounts to very little. I mentioned there’s high octane action, and whilst one set piece involving Chris Brown in a parkour style foot chase, most of it is shot in an overdone, shakey cam style that’s more distracting and headache inducing than it is exciting. Watching it, it feels like director John Lussenhop (who went on to direct “Texas Chainsaw 3D”) watched the “Bourne” movies and thought “hey, this looks pretty cool!” but forgot that in the context of those films, the shakey cam is supposed to make it feel like you are there right in the action. Here it all just feels distracting and obnoxious.
As far as acting goes-well, Idris Elba is pretty good, and you can tell Michael Ealy is trying. The rest…not so good. Matt Dillon is clearly slumming here, as his performance screams “pay me already”, whilst Walker isn’t given anything to do and Christensen, whilst also bad, at least seems to know he’s in a bad movie. Then there’s T.I. and Chris Brown. Brown also seems to be trying, but unlike Ealy, he doesn’t have much in the way of screen presence. T.I. however, is awful. Like, really bad. Like Chris Kline in “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li” bad but somehow worse at the same time. It’s kinda weird too, as he was actually not bad in “ATL” and “American Gangster”. Here he tries waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hard, and it ends up becoming one of the worst performances of the decade.
Then there’s the fact that you don’t actually give a shit about any of these characters. I mentioned “Heat” earlier, but part of what made it work is that Michael Mann is that throughout the film (and indeed his best films), you actually feel invested in the characters, and by that, I mean everyone from Al Pacino and Robert De Niro to even supporting actors like Val Kilmer and Ashley Judd. In “Takers”, you are given brief moments that are meant to humanize some of the characters-brief mentions of Jesse and Jake’s past, the fact that Ghost used to date Lily but she’s now seeing Jake, and Gordon’s drug addict sister (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who pops up at random-but the movie doesn’t bother to do anything else. There isn’t any real character development going on here because you don’t really know any of the characters involved, and that’s because the movie doesn’t bother to let you get to know them.
This also has to do with the fact that this is a movie obsessed with coming off as cool, but not earning any of it. Sure, the guys are all dressed stylishly, the girls that show up are hot and the action is fast, but it lacks other necessary things. Things like interesting characters, good acting, good direction, competent cinematography and a plot that doesn’t mine everything from other, better movies. It’s the movie equivalent of someone who talks about how great he is and how everyone loves him, but in the end of the day they can’t back it up.
In the end of the day, whilst I am ripping on it I can’t say I hated “Takers” That’s because there isn’t anything to really feel any way towards one way or the other. It’s the definition of the kind of thing you find on TV in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. You might watch it for a while, but after 30 minutes you are more likely to lose interest and decide to watch something better.
Budget: $32 Milion
Box Office Total: $69,055,695