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Movie review: 'Takers'

Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon, T.I. and more star in a time-heister.

August 27, 2010|By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

"Takers," the new heist movie starring blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and T.I. (who's scary bad and just plain scary), would be a good snooze if it weren't for all the noisy gunfire and explosions and the violins — which always signal a "special" shootout that will unfold in that ballet-of-death style that's supposed to be arty but just feels tedious here.

Did I mention the dialogue? Well, really the armored car driver put it best when he said, "We're in trouble here…" No joke.

The movie is about an upscale gang of five "Takers" (their quotes this time), or as Paul Walker's sharpshooter John puts it in a deeply reflective moment as they consider the merits of a last-minute armored car heist that requires blowing up an L.A. city street midday and midtown — "We're takers. We take things. That's what we do."

Well said, John, but maybe they should have been planners. Shouldn't that be someone's job — director John Luessenhop, perhaps? Or the screenwriters Peter Allen & Gabriel Casseus and Luessenhop & Avery Duff? (The punctuation specifics imply two separate writing teams worked their way through the script, and still to no avail.)

But back to the action. So we meet this gang of takers tricked out in black and carrying big guns, robbing a bank that is on the 14th floor of a high-rise. Huh? A bank heist that requires multiple elevator rides, well that is different. Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez are Jack and Eddie, the bad cop-good cop — or is it good cop-bad cop? — guys on their tail.

In the gang besides Walker, there's Hayden Christensen as piano-playing A.J., who wields a mean broomstick in a pinch; Chris Brown and Michael Ealy as brothers Jesse and Jake; and Idris Elba as Gordon, the brains of the bunch, but then he's sporting a great Caribbean accent so, you know, he's got to be in charge. Zoe Saldana shows up as Jake's love interest and to remind us she's still cigarette thin and gorgeous.

And then there's rapper Clifford "T.I." Harris as Ghost, the newly paroled buddy who once took a fall for the gang and has turned up like a bad penny looking to make a big score and settle a few others. The problem with T.I. is that he just can't seem to climb out of his own skin, so the same swagger and style that work for him on stage when he's got all those dancers and drums and DJs feel flat against the movie's soundtrack. He doesn't even get violins.

Ghost's big idea is an armored car robbery that can't go wrong. Right. There's another set of bad guys to keep up with — Russian mobsters that Ghost hooked up with in prison. There's a lot of talk of C4, the plastic explosives the gang favors, like "not many people know how to use C4," "it's not easy to find C4," "this C4 fixation is really boring" (OK, I'm making some of that up.)

It's not all bad news here. Brown and Ealy are very good as brothers, with Brown responsible for one of the film's better action sequences — a complicated footrace through downtown L.A. that has him hurdling up and over buildings, cars, walls, fences and people at breakneck speed. But the best is Dillon, whose cop may or may not be compromised and who uses that laconic cynicism of his to take the really ridiculous scenes he's handed and make them mostly believable.

For those looking to get their firepower fix, "Takers" tries and tries again. There are countless shootouts and showdowns and lots of C4 explosions, with director of photography Michael Barrett using any number of cinematic styles that do not, for the most part, mesh. But the hotel room, machine gun gangbang that sends feathers flying, as though 500 goose down pillows bit the dust to make it happen, is so bad it's good.

Even with all of the action, and with a few plot twists that are kinda cool, there's really not enough to "Takers" to make it worth your time. Cue violins.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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