Takers wastes no time in establishing the sort of film it aims to be. With its opening sequence plunging us straight into a bank robbery, we watch as a slick team of balaclava clad thieves (Idris Elba takes charge, with support from Paul Walker, Michael Ealy and Chris Brown) grab the cash and head for the roof, where their cohort (Hayden Christensen) has used a security guard uniform to flag down a news helicopter for their escape. How did they know that would work? Who cares! It’s backed by a pounding guitar soundtrack! With the job executed, the bandits make sure to cover their tracks with a thick slice of cheese, blowing up the chopper and calmly strutting away as the flames rise behind them. Essentially this is The Town for people with no attention span.
It seems fitting, then, that rather than the nuanced and interesting roles seen in Affleck’s film, Takers presents viewers with a series of cliched caricatures, always making sure to remind us just how gosh darned cool they all are. Wearing sharp suits and driving slick sportscars, these criminals divide their time between swish apartments and swanky bars; rarely are they seen without an icy scotch or a Cuban cigar in hand. Keen to ignore the realist appeal of recent crime dramas, Takers opts for the Ocean’s Eleven approach to character design, yet without the wit of that film to keep matters grounded, what we’re left with is basically a troupe of swaggering bell-ends. There’s even a scene where Hayden Christensen’s A.J. sits casually playing a piano, wearing a wife-beater and porkpie hat like he’s bloody Justin Timberlake. But did I mention how cool they are? Here’s a picture for good measure.
But their dapper feathers are about to be ruffled. With an old colleague named Ghost (rap star Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) striding out of prison with blueprints for an armoured car raid that could net his former associates a $30m payday, the gang can’t resist getting on board. But with Ghost still bitter about taking the fall for them before and having eyes for one of the men’s sweetheart (Zoe Saldana, delivering about two lines), can they trust him? Gasp! They’ll have to risk death and arrest in order to find out.
Speaking of arrest, their police pursuers are – of course – equally two-dimensional. Matt Dillon’s Detective Jack Welles is your standard uncompromising cop; even willing to pursue “low level shit” if it will clean up the streets of L.A. With Jack’s commitment leading to marital problems and a young daughter he hardly has time to see, he’s basically Jimmy McNulty from The Wire, but far less interesting. Meanwhile his partner, Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez), seems to have the perfect life. Happily married, he lives in a beautiful home with his wife and son. But it’s only been “a few months since Eddie Jr.’s last dialysis”, so we can safely assume there’ll be some ill child related twists further down the road. If you’re looking for subtlety, you won’t find it here.
Still, Takers has its fun moments. The action scenes are well shot and there are some exciting set pieces; it’s just a shame that they’ve all been directly lifted from other films. It’s impressive that Chris Brown apparently had parkour lessons for the lengthy foot-chase his character gets involved in, but it seems far too influenced by the introduction of Casino Royale. Similarly, a slow-motion shootout in a hotel room is a visually arresting idea, but resembles the climax of True Romance just a little too much.
And therein lies the problem; Takers isn’t awful, just depressingly familiar. There have been two large-scale American bank robber films released in recent weeks and whilst The Town reflects upon life in Boston’s criminal underbelly, Takers‘ Los Angeles setting is all too fitting. It couldn’t be more Hollywood if it tried.