Film Review: TakersIt takes a thief—six of them, actually, in this glossy Michael Mann-lite caper drama of a high-precision L.A. team out for one last big score, and a lone-wolf cop with nothing to lose.
If Michael Mann were a single-malt Scotch, John Luessenhop would be a blended. No, no, wait—if Michael Mann were a Lexus LS 460, John Luessenhop would be a Lexus RX 400 hybrid SUV. Wait, that's not quite right…if Michael Mann were Heat, John Luessenhop would be warm. Which is, at least, better than lukewarm.
And the glossy crime drama Takers is actually kind of cool, if you've never watched this kind of thing before. Those of us who have can see the precise arc of one supporting character right from the moment, early on, that a bad guy gets away. But if you haven't seen Heat—or Thief or Manhunter, or even the TV-movie L.A. Takedown, most of which we'd wager Luessenhop has—then Takers can be reasonably satisfying. Because let's face it: As is clear from his movies Miami Vice (2006) and Public Enemies (2009), Michael Mann sure isn't making Michael Mann movies anymore.
But Luessenhop—who directed and, with two newbie screenwriters and one barely more experienced, co-scripted—gives it a decent high-caliber shot. He fills the screen with tony talismans, from one character's ultra-contemporary aerie to a nightclub that looks like every room is the VIP room. The half-dozen gentleman thieves of the title glide through glass-enclosed penthouses and marble lobbies in thousand-dollar suits. Takers is all so slickly handsome, it's like a string of European clothing commercials interrupted by the occasional plot.
Or caper, anyway, though there's nothing so whimsical here as in, say, Ocean's Eleven or The Italian Job, the latter of which gets a shout-out in dialogue. Pulling off a $2 million bank job with a plan that improbably involves getting a news helicopter to land on a roof and then stealing it, the high-tech, high-precision team—leader Gordon Cozier (Idris Elba), steely lieutenant John (Paul Walker), Ivy League brains A.J. (a surprisingly charming and assured Hayden Christensen), and brothers Jesse (Chris Brown) and Jake (Michael Ealy, late of ABC's "FlashForward")—ill-advisedly go for one last big mega-score initiated by recently paroled member Delonte "Ghost" Rivers (hip-hop star Tip "T.I" Harris). It might be his dialogue, which T.I. does deliver with aplomb, or it might be his weasely, twitchy performance, but once we learn Ghost used to be cozy with Rachel (Zoe Saldana), who's now Jake's fiancée, it's hard to imagine how no one saw the big neon light blinking "Double-cross…Double-cross…"
The filmmakers take pains to show us the human side of the gang, from Gordon's loyal compassion for his crackhead sister (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) in rehab to the tenderness Jake reveals when he proposes. Likewise, we see how LAPD detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) has let work ruin both his marriage and his relationship with his young daughter, and how his partner Hatch (Jay Hernandez) has a wife out of work and a kid who needs dialysis and…oh, right, you've probably seen those cops like a million times before, haven't you?
There's a very long but captivating foot-chase sequence with hints of parkour, and one spectacular set-piece that caps the second caper. The movie boasts notably superior editing by Armen Minasian, whose credits include Kiss the Girls, Daredevil and I, Robot, and its multiethnic cops ’n’ robbers might give it cross-cultural appeal. But whether Takers gives more than it takes depends on how much of this kind of thing you've seen. It's all perfectly digestible, even if it's just reheated.