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Video Reviews

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama, Action/Adventure
Cast
Idris Elba as Gordon Jennings; Matt Dillon as Jack Welles; Tip 'T.I.' Harris as Ghost; Chris Brown as Jesse Attica; Hayden Christensen as A.J.; Michael Ealy as Jake Attica; Paul Walker as John Rahway; Jay Hernandez as Eddie Hatcher
Director
John Luessenhop
Distributor
Sony Pictures
In Theaters
August 27, 2010
On Video
January 18, 2011
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Takers

Money doesn't grow on trees, y'know. If it did, Gordon Jennings and his well-dressed cadre of thieves could put away the plastic explosives, pick up some shovels and plant an orchard of cash-bearing elms. But they know where money really comes from: Banks and armored trucks. It just seems to materialize there like manna, and every year or so Gordon and his band of Takers decide to gather the bounty, spend it freely and dress nattily until it's time for the next job.

Perhaps they think they're providing a service—like hunters thinning a herd of Benjamins before the surplus can overrun the banks' fragile ecosystem. At least one crook, John, donates 10% of his haul to charity. They try really hard not to kill anyone. And, besides, it's just once a year, right?

Then one day, a former crew member called Ghost comes around with the opportunity of a lifetime. An armored truck, carrying $35 million, will be trundling through the city in five days time—and he knows which route it's going to take. If they hustle, they can lighten the overburdened truck's load and buy a few yachts.

Some of the Takers aren't so sure, though. Jake—a well-spoken fellow who took Ghost's girl when the guy landed in prison—thinks it might be too soon to take on another job: They just carried off cash from a bank a day ago, and all their rampant do-gooding might attract unwanted attention. Gordon and John aren't sure whether Ghost can be trusted. But Jesse—Jake's younger brother—and A.J. seem to be willing to take the risk.

"Bet big, win big," John finally says. "It's the only way to play." Maybe $35 mil isn't A-Rod money, but it's good walking-around money.

And so they decide to give Ghost a chance—little realizing that there are a couple of cops on their trail hoping to put an end to their out-of-control philanthropy.

Positive Elements

All we've got here is our old action-movie fallback: Several characters risk their lives to help their comrades. (We know it's a big deal when it happens because classical-sounding music swells in the background.) Since they're endangered as a direct result of their crimes, though, it feels especially weak in this case.

Sexual Content

Naked, John and a pair of women get into a pool. (We see his backside and their backs along with a bit of their sides.) Other women wear low-cut dresses. Jesse leers at one as she walks past. There are a couple of sexual one-liners loosed. Crass terms are applied to male body parts. Jake and his fiancée kiss a few times.

Violent Content

We must assume that these Takers spend quite a lot of their ill-gotten gain on munitions. (Bullets don't grow on trees, y'know.) At first, the gang manages to rob a bank without firing at anyone—though they do rough up the security guards and brandish their weapons in a most menacing manner. They pull a news crew out of a helicopter to steal the thing and, once the copter lands again, they blow it up for good measure.

But things get progressively more violent. Beat downs come courtesy of fists, feet, guns and broom handles. The Takers blow up part of a street—presumably killing a passing bicyclist. (We see the bicycle go airborne.) And they have a prolonged gunfight with armored truck security personnel inside the cavernous crater. Later, the gang gets into a shootout with at least half the Russian underworld in a hotel suite. Several folks bite the dust there, and so many bullets hit the walls it's a wonder they don't fall down.

[Spoiler Warning] Once the Russian mafia's out of the way, there's really no one left to shoot but one another … and so they do. Ghost guns down the crew's accountant and his bodyguard. Ghost and Gordon fire at each other—leaving one man dead, the other injured. (We see his hand covered in blood.) An interloping detective also falls to the ground, suffering the ill effects of a bullet wound.

Two characters essentially commit suicide by running, fully armed and firing, toward a phalanx of police officers. A woman is killed and left for her fiancé to find. A police officer dies from a shot to the gut.

Someone injures himself by slamming his head into a door. A criminal, trying to get away, pushes people violently into walls or to the ground—and gets hit several times by cars and trucks. (The whole scene feels like a poorly played game of Frogger.)

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and more than 50 s-words. God's name is paired with "d‑‑n" more than a dozen times. Jesus' name is misused three or four. We also frequently hear "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "h‑‑‑" and "p‑‑‑."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Characters smoke cigarettes and cigars. They drink wine, beer, whiskey, champagne, vodka and something out of a flask. "Come sip from the cup of destruction," the flask-drinker says.

We're told Gordon was raised by a "crackhead" sister, and she clearly still has issues with drugs. Two days after she leaves a rehab center, she dives into the streets looking for a fix—which she apparently finds.

Other Negative Elements

Gordon makes a big show of caring for his sister. But when she shows up on his doorstep unexpectedly—released from rehab a week early and obviously vulnerable to her drug's siren call—Gordon sends her to live in a hotel for a couple of days while he handles the heist.

Jesse decides to use his money to build a house for his father—instead of actually visiting him in prison.

Jack Welles, the story's prerequisite grizzled old cop, is willing to do anything to catch the bad guys—including threatening and beating up informants and taking his little daughter along on dangerous assignments. His partner, Eddie, gives Jack some very sound advice—while he himself sometimes lets thieves go and takes their money.

Conclusion

The history of glamorous gangsters in film is almost as long as the history of film itself. We Americans—and people of all nationalities, I suspect—find something appealing in dapper, dangerously likable folks who live (and live well) outside the law.

But cinema has often tempered its plaudits for crime with a somber reinforcement of the fact that, in the end, it doesn't pay. Sure, our favorite crooks may live it up for a while, but the long arm of the law reaches out for them eventually and they wind up either in jail or dead.

With that as our backdrop, Takers can be seen as completely and, at times, laughably predictable. These bandits of the hour drive expensive cars, hole up in fabulous apartments, drink high-class whiskey and dress oh-so-well. Even the police give 'em their props: "They were hot, no doubt about that," Jack says—whose modest apartment and frayed life remind moviegoers how much cooler it is to be a lawbreaker than a law-enforcer.

But in this case, a few of these bad guys walk away clean—with the money. Some of them pay with their lives. But not all. I have this funny vision running around in my head of some criminal overlord using Takers as a recruitment video. "Think Chris Brown looks dope?" he might ask afterwards. "You can be just like him! Sign right here … that's right, where it says 'extraneous henchman.'"

'Course, if I was the crime boss who had paid for it all, I'd be sending one of those new recruits to get a full refund. This film really is that bad. Onscreen, the Takers stole $35 million. Screen Gems spent a reported $32 million getting them there. What a waste, especially considering the fact that movies don't grow on trees.

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