There are two stories duking in out in TAKERS. One is a glitzy caper flick with a clever leader of a group of glamorous thieves with hearts of gold (mostly). The other is a gritty L.A. cop drama with a dedicated detective, the kind beset with the usual assortment of personal problems, trying the crack cases with limited resources and Internal Affairs breathing down his neck. Alas, the filmmakers decided to stack the deck in favor of the latter, making the two storylines barely tangential to one another. And yet one can discern through the haze that once there was a script that made an interesting juxtaposition of the thief and the detective, one that played on the personal and professional issues each faced and that might have been a solid drama. Too bad.
The cop is Jack (Matt Dillon) and he is, of course, facing charges of excessive force, a divorce, and alienation from his beloved daughter. The thief is Gordon (Idris Elba), a man living the good life from his annual fiendishly clever and very high yielding robberies, but who is also dealing with a beloved sister on the verge of graduating from yet another in a series of trips to rehab. Their most recent annual heist has brought them to Jacks attention, and while he is doing the grunt work of sifting through clues, Gordon is contemplating another heist much sooner than usual. The catch, one of many, is that it would have to happen within a week. The other, the most troublesome, is that the plan comes from a disgruntled former gang member, Ghost (T.I), one just out of prison and working with the Russian mob, which is yet another catch. That the plan is also acknowledged to be a variation of that found in THE ITALIAN JOB is, however, not a problem.
Dillon has the right dogged determination for the role of a cop haunted by personal failure and the futility of trying to stamp out crime once and for all. The film has little interest in him or his story, so engaged is it with the trappings of success found on the other side of the law. The point is not to unfold an engaging story, but rather to dwell lovingly on expensive cars, fancy clothes, rare liquor, and posh digs. The gang, Elba, Paul Walker Mike Ealy, Chris Brown, and Hayden Christensen, are all swell human beings, tithing part of their take to charity, and pretty much interchangeable personality-wise with a few quirks thrown in. Brown is in love. Christensen has hats and tatts. Walker has a hilltop home with a pool large enough for him and his lovelies to enjoy. All, including T.I. are devastatingly charismatic eye-candy, but are given little to do except look good in the clothes or, in Walkers case at one point, out of them. The best and truest drama comes with Elba and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Gordons sister, as they invest their characters with volumes of backstory and gravitas as they fondly remember their turbulent past and face the turbulent present with differing degrees of patience and success.
There is no question that the gentlemen bandits look fabulous strolling away in slo-mo from an explosion at the start of the flick. They are the epitome of cool and control, but that, in a nutshell, is all the film has to offer. The direction from John Luessenhop keeps the energy high, but imagination low as the action leads up inevitably to the extended chase that sprawls over streets, office buildings, subways, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Sequences are devised for their visual possibilities rather than coherence, hence T.I. meeting his former associates first in the club one of them runs, and then in a hyper-covert operation at a hot dog stand involving everyone showing up whether involved in the transaction or not, some in disguise for no readily apparent reason.
TAKERS is a flick that substitutes style for actual storytelling. As lovely to look at as its stars, its never more than a wisp of a plaything scarcely worth the trouble to seek out.