A crackling crime drama assembled from a scrap heap of hoary cliches, "Takers" proves that everything old can sometimes really be new again.
Everything in this stylish, exciting movie has been borrowed from other pictures, from the suave, resourceful bank robbers who execute perfect crimes to the pair of dogged police officers hell-bent on nabbing them. But the familiarity of the material is overcome by stylish, unobtrusive direction by John Luessenhop, who keeps the visuals vibrant and flashy without resorting to assaultive overkill, and an eclectic ensemble cast of actors you never imagined would ever appear in the same movie.
Cribbing heavily from Michael Mann's crime epic "Heat" (note the elaborate sequence involving the heist of an armored car), "Takers" makes the bad guys as engaging and charismatic as the heroes, so even though they are nonviolent criminals who occasionally — and reluctantly — must kill, you don't necessarily want to see them get caught. These five slick thieves (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and Chris Brown) dress like GQ models, read the Bloomberg Report, live in swanky penthouse apartments and relax in swimming pools pre-populated by bikini-clad hotties.
They are also meticulous about planning their ingenious crimes — when they rob a bank, they use a TV news chopper as their getaway vehicle — which makes life a lot harder for LAPD detectives Jack (Matt Dillon) and Eddie (Jay Hernandez), assigned to apprehend crooks who never leave so much as a fingerprint behind. The cops don't even know the gang members' names or what they look like.
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The wrench in the posse's well-laid plans comes in the form of Ghost (Tip "T.I." Harris), a former member of the group who served four years in prison without flipping on his cronies. Ghost feels he's owed some payback for his loyalty, and he also has a detailed plan for robbing an armored car that would bring a $30 million haul. Although Ghost is something of a loose cannon, and his trustworthiness is questionable (he also likes to quote Genghis Khan, which should always be a reason for pause), the gang's leader Gordon (Elba) looks over the scheme and decides to go for it.
Despite much of the movie's predictability (the just-sprung felon with questionable motives, the workaholic cop being investigated by internal affairs, meetings with Russian mobsters that result in violence), the film feels fresh and invigorating. There are some expertly orchestrated action set pieces, such as a great, long foot chase between Michael Ealy and Dillon (the movie's equivalent of an extended car chase) or a hotel suite shootout, with characters blasting away at each other in tight quarters, that outguns the climactic standoff in "True Romance."
And the plot does manage to come up with a couple of curve balls, most notably the ending, which you won't guess is coming no matter how many crime pictures you've seen.
"Takers" doesn't break any new ground and is far from essential, but it goes down smooth and easy — a tall, refreshing, ice-cool chaser to a long, mostly dry summer movie season.