A crackling crime drama assembled from a scrap heap of hoary clichés, Takers proves that everything old can sometimes be new again.
Everything in this stylish, exciting movie has been borrowed from other pictures: suave, resourceful bank robbers who execute perfect crimes; a pair of dogged police officers hell-bent on nabbing them. But the material's familiarity is overcome by stylish, unobtrusive direction by John Luessenhop, who keeps the visuals vibrant and flashy without resorting to overkill, and an eclectic cast of actors you never imagined would appear in the same movie.
Cribbing heavily from Michael Mann's crime epic Heat (note the elaborate sequence involving the heist of an armored car), Takers makes the bad guys as engaging and charismatic as the heroes. Even though they are non-violent criminals who occasionally — and reluctantly — must kill, you don't necessarily want to see them get caught. The five slick thieves (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and Chris Brown) dress like GQ models, read the Bloomberg Report, live in swanky penthouse apartments and relax in swimming pools populated by bikini-clad hotties.
They also are meticulous about planning their ingenious crimes. When they rob a bank, they use a TV news chopper as their getaway vehicle — which makes life a lot harder for LAPD detectives Jack (Matt Dillon) and Eddie (Jay Hernandez), assigned to catch crooks who never leave behind so much as a fingerprint. The cops don't even know the gang members' names or what they look like.
The wrench in the crooks' well-laid plans is Ghost (Tip "T.I." Harris), a former member of the group who served four years in prison without flipping on his cronies. Ghost thinks he's owed some payback for his loyalty, and he has a detailed plan for robbing an armored car of $30 million. Ghost is something of a loose cannon, and his trustworthiness is questionable (he also likes to quote Genghis Khan, which should always be a reason for pause), but the gang's leader, Gordon (Elba), looks over the scheme and decides to go for it.
Despite much of the movie's predictability (the just-sprung felon with questionable motives, the workaholic cop being investigated by internal affairs, meetings with Russian mobsters that result in violence), the film feels fresh and invigorating. There are some expertly orchestrated action scenes, including a great long foot chase between Michael Ealy and Dillon (the movie's equivalent of an extended car chase) and a hotel-suite shootout, with characters blasting away at each other in tight quarters.
The plot does come up with a couple of curve balls, most notably the ending, which you won't guess is coming no matter how many crime pictures you've seen.
Takers doesn't break any new ground and is far from essential, but it goes down smooth and easy — a tall, refreshing, ice-cool chaser to a long, mostly dry summer movie season.