The new heist film "Takers" opens with a gripping, rapid-fire bank robbery and closes with a pretty decent hijacking and a fantastic footrace. It's a pity about the hour in the middle.
Actually, that's not entirely accurate, as the very beginning of the film introduces us to LAPD detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) and his younger partner Eddie (Jay Hernandez). It takes the two of them about five minutes to fall into about every cop-partner cliche in film history: there's the grizzled veteran who's not afraid to hit a suspect and has a failed marriage and a crap relationship with his kid and then there's the earnest, wide-eyed younger cop with a wife and a family. Bleecchhhh...
It's not until we see the "takers" start to filter in that the film gets interesting, as one by one they assemble on an abandoned floor (there's always an abandoned floor, isn't there?) of a high-rise that's home to a bank. What follows is a robbery pulled off with the kind of precision execution that would make any mother proud, and is a pretty sweet getaway to boot.
What sets this crew apart from most bank heist teams is their love of well-tailored suits, single-malt scotch and fine mahogany woodwork. Their lair is basically a Wall Street frat boy's dream, which to be honest is a refreshing change of pace from the cesspools or nouveau riche nightmares most movie gangs inhabit. Oh, and it's a biracial crew, a fact made interesting only by being ignored.
The acting in this film ranges from tortured to very good, with a bit too much at the former end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, there's not much to work with for some of the movie's better performers. Dillon, Idris Elba are Marianne Jean-Baptiste are all talented veterans trying to make do -- they all deserve better.
Unfortunately, Tip "T.I." Harris is way out of his depth as Ghost, a man from the takers' past who's fresh out of prison and has a plan for one last job. It's not Shakespeare, but in the hands of a better actor, Ghost could've been a great stock genre character offering any number of chances to gnaw on some scenery. Instead you wince a little more each time T.I. calls someone "G."
Chris Brown and Michael Ealy are the hilariously named Attica brothers -- while the fact they are siblings is clear in the film, their family name is sadly not highlighted. Ealy acquits himself nicely as the taker with the most to lose. And Brown (and his stunt double) makes a hard-charging, exciting escape on foot that mixes elements of Frogger and parkour (which is quickly wearing out its welcome as the new movie trick).
Rounding out the cast are a positively wooden Paul Walker, an absurdly hatted and tatted Hayden Christensen and Zoe Saldana, who must've signed on to this movie before "Avatar" became the highest grossing film of all time.
"Takers" has the ambition of Michael Mann's "Heat" (which had its own problems), but director John Luessenhop lacks the skill and cast that Mann had at his disposal. Ultimately "Takers" is bookended by plenty of good action that is sadly held together by a string of tired nonsense.