Monday, August 30, 2010

Takers (2010)

If Takers is really this generation’s Heat (1995), then I feel very sorry for this generation.  And since I think I’m still technically part of this generation – or at least I am somewhere in close proximity – then I guess I feel sorry for myself.  Admirable, I know.  But when you spend two hours sitting through a movie like Takers, it’s hard to really feel anything at all.  So you start thinking about what else you could be doing, what else these actors would be doing, or what else director John Luessenhop would be doing had he not crossed paths with Cifford Joseph “T.I.” Harris, the rapper/convict/wanna-be actor who gets a whole lot of credit for putting this recycled crime caper flick together. 

  It’s fitting that T.I. co-stars in Takers, a film about a bunch of pretty boys wanting expensive pretty things, personified by pop stars (Chris Brown) and fashionable mannequins (Paul Walker).  The whole movie is an MTV gangsta’s paradise, a film that holds flash and status and gloss above all else.  Luessenhop does a pretty fantastic job making all these pretty things glimmer and sparkle.  Had this been a 5 minute music video, it could be called impressive.  But asking him to film an action sequence is like asking a blind man to take a picture – he just kind of points and shoots and hopes to cobble something together in post.

  Occasionally the cobbled together product passes for entertaining.  Luessenhop’s visions of L.A. is sleek and cool, and it pops appropriately.  There’s a pretty decent foot chase hidden in here, and a pretty all-right hotel shootout.  But the shootout’s really just a scene from Tony Scott/Quentin Tarantino’s cult classic True Romance (1993), though not nearly as good.

  That’s the theme here.  If you’ve ever seen Belly (1998), you basically know what this movie is – a hip-hop flavored rip-off of the movies that partly inspire hip-hop culture itself.  Takers isn’t as bad as Belly, which was basically a D-level Scorsese flick.  In fact, the best part about Takers is that it doesn’t completely suck.  But even at its best it’s still Michael Mann-light, a remix of Heat or Vice or anything else the team of four writers watched the night before slapping this mix-flick together.
  T.I., Brown and Walker are part of a team of “takers”, which I guess is an attempt at cool lingo for “robbers”.  This movie is about the heist to end all heists, and how the team of criminals unravel and get what they deserve at the end.  Which is nice, because they really do deserve their demise.  These are the kind of guys that “take” just to “have”, an idea which rides comfortably along with the old Hollywood crime flicks of Scarface and the like (and no, I’m not talking about the gangsta-culure influencing Al Pacino flick… but that’s a good one too). 

  The sad reality of this character decision, though, is that the movie doesn’t realize there’s anything wrong with taking just to have.  Its characters are punished for putting their trust in the wrong man, not for being the greedy losers they are.  In fact, as far as the movie is concerned, these are all pretty good dudes – the kind of guys you hope show up at your party to legitimize your cool.

  And that’s the most pathetic part.  You know what Robert De Niro’s Heat character Neil McCauley would do if he ever met these kids mimicking him on the street?  He’d slap them around and tell ‘em to grow up.  To be men.  ‘Cause you can’t take kids playing “music video” seriously.  There’s nothing tangible here, nothing to grab on to.  Nothing unique.  Heat is like a classic album.  Takers is a dude slinging mix-tapes in the subway – there might be few cool moments in there, but it’s all riffing off of someone else’s material.

  Art (and particularly pop-art) has a way of building upon influences.  It’s a way of honoring the past while building something new for the future.  But when your attempt at art is really just a thinly veiled rip-off, well that’s more like mockery.

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