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Hollywood Product: Takers

Director John Luessenhop banks too heavily on T.I. to pull this caper off.



GENRE: Dramatic cops and robbers action flick

THE PITCH: A successful, swanky posse of bank thieves attempt to pull off an "Italian Job" styled gig worth millions proposed by Ghost (T.I.) a former member of the crew recently released from jail. While the group plans to pull off the caper, they are not aware that hard luck detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) is right on their heels.

MONEY SHOT: Jesse Attica (Chris Brown) takes to the streets to allude Welles and several cops. The chase has Jesse jumping and leaping parkour style through downtown L.A. over cars and through buildings. The chase intensifies when Jesse is trapped inside an office building and makes a few risky decisions for his escape.

BEST LINE: After Welle's give an officer a hard time, his partner Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernadez) asks, "... [either the] Meds not working or we gotta get you laid."

PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Welles give you bad ass cop when he sports his RayBan Wayfarer shades, While the posse is relaxing at crewmember Jake's (Michael Ealy) club, a bottle of Dom Perignon is delivered to A.J. (Hayden Christensen) from a blonde at the bar.

SKIN FACTOR: John (Paul Walker) bares his tush and he slowly enters a pool of topless babes. Gordon lies in bed wearing on a pair of briefs. A phone call gets him out of bed and shows Elba sports a physique and package that had women gasping in the theaters.

VIOLENCE LEVEL: There's a fair amount of violence throughout the film. While most involves a couple of shootouts, there's still a lot that derives from some intense hand-to-hand fight sequences.

BODY COUNT: Without revealing too much, I counted 16 fatalities that comprised of the law, some thieves and an assortment of other baddies.

THE BOTTOM LINE: As with most heist films, a dynamic ensemble of characters is needed to sell the story, the crime and more importantly, the people who commit them. The challenge is how to turn something bad — like theft, into something good. The Italian Job had its dream team, so did the Ocean's Eleven series - and now we have the Takers.

Right from the start we're treated to a sexy, smart and granted — over the top heist film, which has that panache that we typically see in films of the genre. Elba's Gordon lives in a penthouse apartment overlooking the city, Walker drives a sweet silver Porsche and Ealy has aspirations of expanding his posh nightclub with his fiancée Rachel (Zoe Saldana). Such lavish lifestyles shroud the boon of their criminal activities, making it easy to forget that they're just really good bank robbers. What tips the scales is actually Tip - Rapper T.I. who offers, in my opinion, an interesting — but uninspired version of a wronged felon who holds the fate of his former crew in his hands. Maybe its because he has entirely too much swagger, making it hard to separate the rapper we know from the character he portrays. Does that make me a "hater"? Regardless of my conundrum with Tip, it's this shift in the balance of control his character Ghost creates that sucks you in - punctuating the fact that all crimes, no matter the severity, have a dark side.

You'd think this surefire formula of comeuppance was enough to get the message across but no. The story unfortunately gets muddled due to the almost unnecessary subplots involving Dillon's Detective Welles' broken home life and a distracting arc between Elba's Gordon attempt to save his crack-addicted sister Naomi (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). As more misplaced moments begin to pile up, I couldn't help but wonder how much of John Luessenhop's film ended up on the cutting room floor instead of the screen.

Aside from a couple of missteps in the story, Luessenhop weaves a fast-paced, glossy turned gritty tale of greed with Takers that as far as heist movies go, offers a reasonably satisfying payoff.

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