Feb 072011
 

As a genre the heist movie has been around for nigh on 100 years; with numerous films being released that revolve around a gang of criminals coming up with an elaborate plan to steal a lot of money (or something worth a lot of money), executing that plan, and attempting to get away scott free; and shows no signs of slipping away, with Takers being only one of several heist films being released in the past year.

Beginning by showing it’s group of professional thieves pulling off an elaborate, and well executed, bank robbery (so we can see just how professional they are), Takers presents a gang of thieves that are clearly good at what they do, and make sure to wait well over a year between jobs, to avoid connections, and minimize the heat they feel from the police.

But as soon as the takers have completed the bank job, they’re met by a former friend who’s straight out of jail and presenting them with a job offer; stealing the contents of an armored truck, in broad daylight (similar to jobs previously seen in Heat, The Italian Job remake, and The Town), with only a few days to plan the execution; something they reluctantly accept when they hear exactly how much money is on offer (around $30 million).

Needless to say, the film then follows the group planning how they’re going to relieve the armored truck of its payload, as the audience waits for the job to begin; in order to find out what will inevitably go wrong, who may or may not betray them, and how close the obsessive police officers tasked with their arrest will come to thwarting their latest get-rich-quick scheme.

It’s more than obvious that Takers follows in the tracks of some truly legendary heist movies, and takes a good deal of influence from those that have gone before; imitating Heat (a film often considered to be the greatest heist movie eve made) by showing the parallel quests of the thieves plotting to take the truck and the efforts of the police trying to stop them, and having the main detective portrayed as a an obsessive cop who often lets the work interfere with his family life, attempting to lift the stylish aspect of Ocean’s 11 with the use of stylish locales, expensive suits, and expansive city shots, and outright copying The Italian Job (2003) after the man suggesting the robbery suggests something along the lines of “going all Italian Job” on it (practically giving the entire plan away to anyone who saw the ’03 remake).

But what lets Takers down the most isn’t the fact it simply reuses a bunch of tired plot elements that have been seen before (The Town essentially used the same plot; at least the basic elements of it; in a much more successful manner), but the writing that fails to inject any passion into anything, and simply presents a bunch of high-class criminals with so little personality, you would be hard pressed to name even half of them by the end of the movie.

Idris Elba plays the most memorable criminal; and is clearly a very talented actor, but sounds slightly weird using his native British accent, is let down by the script (which gives him little to work with), and unfortunately can never hope to recapture the depth and brilliance of his character (Stringer Bell) in The Wire; and is backed up by rapper T.I.; who gives a performance so pathetic it becomes mind-numbingly dull; Seven Pounds’ Michael Ealy, and Step Up’s Chris Brown; in two adequate appearances as brothers with a genuine bond; and Fast Five’s Paul Walker, and Jumper’s Hayden Christensen; as characters thinner than the film’s plot; with performances that are more wooden than a door made from solid English oak, and so similar they had to give Christensen a hat just so viewers could tell them apart.

Matt Dillon (Armored) stars as Jack Welles; the obsessive cop who becomes hell-bent on taking down the Takers’ crew after catching the bank robbery case; and plays the part fairly well (in possibly the best performance of the film), but unfortunately not as well as Al Pacino; who played Dillon’s counterpart in Heat (the guy Welles is clearly based upon; as they’re both so obsessed with the job that it clearly affects their home-life, are very good at the job, and not afraid to throw out the rulebook if a quick slap, or violation of somebody’s rights, will get the results they desire).

But despite unashamedly ripping-off a whole bunch of great, and not-so-great, heist movies, as well as being utterly predictable, failing to achieve the stylish look it hoped to attain, and not having a single original or captivating character, Takers still manages to be a decent bit of fun; thanks largely to the action sequences, that are often overblown, stretched out, and totally ridiculous yet still amusing to watch, and deliver everything a mid-level action movie should; by including plenty of guns, the odd explosion, and a couple of tense standoffs that make for enjoyable watching.

Takers was never going to win any major awards, and remains a bit of a mess throughout; failing to capitalize on a genre that’s overpopulated with cleverly brilliant, or stylishly fun, movies that are hard to beat; it’s a mid-level action movie that just about delivers what it promises (albeit on a much smaller scale than the trailers originally implied), and should be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates the positives in films such as The Fast and The Furious, The Taking of Pelham 123, or The Losers.

Picture:

Similar to the film itself, Takers video quality has a number of strong elements, but fails to truly ‘wow’ audiences, as despite having solid colour representation, great clarity, and little unnecessary noise, the picture’s fine detail (which on the whole is very strong) can sometimes be softened by the many different colour filters (which bathe the infected scene with swathes of blue, yellow, or any other stylized choice), there’s some evidence of the blacks becoming crushing in a number of shots (particularly evident under the dark blue filters), and a few instances of minor banding (which shouldn’t actually be enough to bother most viewers).

So while overall the picture quality is acceptable, thanks to a few minor niggles (coming by loss of detail, and the occasional transfer issue) it fails to amaze, won’t win any awards with serious videophiles, and is in no danger of becoming stores’ next demo disc, but never becomes distracting, and won’t put any fan off watching the movie.

Audio:

Like the picture, and the film as a whole, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio mix that’s been awarded to the Takers Blu-ray release remains rather underwhelming; as while there’s plenty of bass (particularly when the action kicks off in the latter half of the film) it’s less weighty than you’d expect, and doesn’t have nearly as much impact as it should, and the dialogue, while very clear, remains just a little subdued, and has often been too clearly re-dubbed after the fact.

The rear channels get a bit of a workout, and there are one or two impressive pans thrown into the mix, yet despite the overall clarity, precision, and decent effects that fill the soundstage, Takers audio track just feels generic, and gives no more than you’d expect from a modern Blu-ray release; it’s far from a bad mix, and will be plenty good enough for the film’s fans, but will do little to impress hardcore audiophiles.

Extras:

In terms of special features, Takers again provides a number of bonus features that amount to roughly what one would expect from a modern action release, including an audio commentary; containing input from T.I., director John Luessenhop (Lockdown), and producers Will Packer (Obsessed) and Jason Geter (T.I.’s Road to Redemption), that flows fairly well, provides a good deal of information (on locations, wardrobes, what went in to certain scenes, etc), and is actually quite an entertaining listen; a making of featurette; which is far too promotional and praise heavy; and an interesting featurette covering the film’s stunt work and action scenes.

There’s also a PS3 theme included, a couple of trailers, and a music video of a song T.I. produced for the movie; all of which combine with the other features to create not an overwhelming amount of bonus material, or a totally original collection, but a selection that will undoubtedly please the film’s fans, and give them a little insight into the production of a modern heist movie.

The Bottom Line:

So what you get with Takers is basically just another heist movie, and one that unfortunately brings nothing new to the table; as despite having some decent action, and closing act that may have been ludicrous, but was nevertheless a solid bit of fun, it remains too predictable, too generic, and far too wooden to captivate anyone.

The Blu-ray release is also not without it’s issues; although in all fairness they are minor, and only stand out when compared to some of the more stellar modern releases; having a decent picture that has a few problems but is still far above DVD quality, and sound that’s clear and concise, but not quite as rousing as other similar releases, and extras that serve their purpose, but are pretty average overall.

And average is a word that perfectly describes Takers; it’s a film that has all the elements of a genuinely brilliant heist movie (and it should; seen as how it borrowed from enough of them), and delivers everything a mid-level action movie should (guns, explosions, half-decent actors, and a bit of flash), but thanks to being filled with two-dimensional characters, a predictable plot, and no heart, fails to capitalize on its positives; it’s not necessarily a bad film but by the time it’s over, you simply won’t care who lived or died.

Using the excuse that the heist movie has been going for nearly 100 years doesn’t work for Takers; especially seen as how the recently released The Town (which is a must for heist fans that are craving the next Heat) proved the genre has so much more left to give; but for fans of movies like Fast Five, The Losers, or The Italian Job (2003), Takers will be a sure-fire hit.