' ' Cinema Romantico: Takers

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


“Takers” separates the men from the boys – or, more accurately, it separates Mann from the boys, as in Michael Mann, the man who wrote and directed the ultimate heist picture “Heat.” “Takers” is so in love with Michael Mann the movie employs “Sacrifice”, written and performed by Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke, which was employed to great (and much better) effect in Mann’s mega-brilliant “The Insider”, his follow up to “Heat.” But whereas “Heat” was a layered, complex film about cops and robbers, the ridiculously inferior “Takers” is a cops and robbers movie – all window-dressing, no soul.

The film revolves around a quintet of bank robbers – “we’re takers, that’s what we do” – led by the stylishly hard-boiled Idris Elba, whose character name I forget and who I swear slips in and out of his real-life English accent throughout, and the stylishly monotone Paul Walker, whose character name I also forget and who displays, as per usual, as much charisma as a jar of Heinz 57. They are joined by two brothers, one responsible (Michael Ealy) and one less responsible (Chris Brown), and Hayden Christensen in a jaunty hat. The movie opens with the gang making off with millions in a heist that depends on an extraordinary bit of convenience. The getaway plan would have made Neil McCauley shake his head. “What if the news chopper doesn’t decide to land?” “Uh………”

Immediately a world-weary cop – let’s call him Instant Coffee Vincent Hanna – played reasonably well by Matt Dillon and his partner are on the case, snooping out leads, demanding info from contacts, beating people up in interrogation rooms, so on and so forth. But why is Instant Coffee Vincent Hanna so world-weary? Well, he’s world-weary because he’s the cop after the robber, that’s why. The screenplay (credited to four writers) offers bare-bone insight.

I would contend the most misunderstood character in the almost universally adored “Heat” is The Real Vincent Hanna’s stepdaughter, Lauren (Natalie Portman), and this is because she has no tangible connection to Hanna’s efforts to track the high-tech bank-robbing crew. But Mann’s script branches off into so many directions below the surface and Lauren is specifically painted as a victim of the trickle-down effect from Hanna and is wife/her mom. So much is swirling around and then occasionally Lauren pops up onscreen to remind the audience – even as the characters fail to grasp those same reminders – that she is not necessarily being mistreated but forgotten. And her horrific denouement puts into hard-earned perspective what really matters.

On the flip side, in “Takers” Matt Dillon’s Instant Coffee Vincent Hanna is given a daughter who only appears in one scene. He promises to take her to a museum and for lunch. But work interferes, as it must, and he finds himself tailing Elba and Walker with his daughter in the car. It’s a moment that shows the character’s obsessiveness, sure, but she also is there so that when Elba and Walker suspect they are being tailed and are prepared to go after Instant Coffee Vincent Hanna, they dismiss the notion when they realize a young girl is in the car. And that’s it. She’s never glimpsed again. Which is to say, she only exists to get her dad off the hook and not to offer insight. Big diff.

The same can be said of Elba’s drug-addled sister (Marianne Jean Baptiste) who is theoretically meant to work as a light shining on what’s really important, but actually exists merely to work as the means for Instant Coffee Vincent Hanna to deduce the bank robbers’ identity. Yawn.

“Takers” is all sheen, a shiny countertop that has never seen an actual mess in its existence. The only thing of consequence is learning that Chris Brown is not only a woman-beater, he’s also apparently a (fictional) cop-killer.


Anonymous said...

"...it separates Mann from the boys, as in Michael Mann..." Oooh, I LOVE that, it says it all from that one sentence. Even Idris Elba doesn't seem able to save this movie, but Natalie Portmant is in this too?? Wow! Truthfully, I'm already put off by the stupid poster which is a Photoshop whack job... and Chris Brown.

blahblahblah Toby said...

fabulously irreverant, Hayden Christensen - he can't act but he sure wears that hat at a jaunty angle. favourite line of a review today.

Nick Prigge said...

Ruth: Oh no, Natalie Portman is definitely not in this movie. Just in "Heat." Although she might have classed up the joint.

Toby: Thank you! Good to see you back in blogging land!