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Takers: Film Review

10:00 PM PDT 10/14/2010 by Stephen Farber

The Bottom Line

Although "Takers" pales alongside "Rififi"or "The Killing," it's a serviceable B-movie that will do decent business during the dog days of August.

Although "Takers" pales alongside "Rififi"or "The Killing," it's a serviceable B-movie that will do decent business during the dog days of August.

By now there have been so many classic heist movies that it's hard to imagine a fresh variation on the theme, but the genre never quite loses its appeal to filmmakers or audiences. Although "Takers" pales alongside "Rififi"or "The Killing," it's a serviceable B-movie that will do decent business during the dog days of August.

A gang of five high-living bank robbers (Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and singer Chris Brown) has managed to pull off several lucrative jobs through meticulous planning. But when a former colleague gets out of jail and suggests an armored-car robbery that might be their biggest score, the robbers throw caution to the winds.

You know they are heading for trouble this time, partly because of tensions among the thieves and partly because a pair of cops (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez) are hot on their trail. In addition, they have to contend with Russian mobsters -- the villains du jour on TV and at the movies -- who want to get in on the action.

The basic arc of the story is formulaic, but the writers -- Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, director John Luessenhop and Avery Duff -- provide enough clever twists and character details to keep the vehicle humming along efficiently.

The cast also helps to enliven the material. Dillon captures the world-weary cynicism of a dogged, sometimes brutal cop who often is in trouble with his superiors. Hernandez is likable as his more laid-back partner, who is harboring a few dark secrets of his own.

Among the crooks, the British-born Elba conveys the right gravitas as leader of the pack, and hip-hop performer Tip "T.I." Harris is convincingly slimy and explosive as the ex-con who threatens the gang's cohesiveness.

Oscar nominee Marianne Jean-Baptiste has a small but juicy role as Elba's drug-addicted sister, who seems sure to cause additional trouble for the band of thieves.

Aside from Jean-Baptiste, there are virtually no women in this caper. It's strictly a testosterone-drenched adventure, which would be fine if the director didn't suffer from the latest affliction in action movies, a form of cinematic ADD. Luessenhop's camera is never at rest, and his frenetic editing style often detracts from the tension.

There's a foot chase through downtown Los Angeles that might have been a classic sequence except that it's been chopped up ferociously, as if it had been spliced by a Benihana chef gone berserk.

In a movie like "The French Connection," the chase sequences had visual clarity as well as nail-biting suspense. In "Takers," the director never firmly establishes the locations, and the herky-jerky editing further muddies the action.

Nevertheless, the stunt work is amazing, and the pace is breathless enough to keep one watching right up to the somewhat ambiguous conclusion. Michael Barrett's cinematography is suitably slick, and Paul Haslinger's music gets a tad pretentious. Luckily, the actors always help to humanize the mayhem.