sometimes janklow finds motion pictures of absolutely no consequence make him VERY EMOTIONAL

sometimes i like to take a terrible film that’s SO RIDICULOUS and do the whole “running diary” thing (and believe me, i am sincerely overdue on my Zardoz running diary, this i know)… and sometimes i like to find something inconsequential and get totally worked up over it… but sometimes, i like to combine the two into some kind of weird mash-up and go from there. and as i have often been told that my ridiculous ideas are the best of them…


frankly, the “2010 crime film directed by John Luessenhop” known as Takers deserves neither a) appreciation of any sort or b) the type of energy required for a running diary. and have you not noticed that in the latter case, i generally have a grudging respect for those films? i tend to own them all, you know. and is this sort of picking on an easy target? well, maybe…but then you don’t tend to rip on movies that aren’t filled with garbage. but enough of this build-up!


well, what are we waiting for? also, SPOILERS AHOY.

so i think the concept for this movie was “get me Idris Elba, and then surround with as many douchebags as you can.” although i actually do enjoy TI in the movies, so that’s a little unfair

01. the audacity of Takers trying to out-Heat Heat
let me start with what is perhaps my biggest issue: i am 99.4% certain Luessenhop was trying to make his version of Heat here, only cooler. the two major reasons:

–both feature a flashy ensemble cast, if you will allow me to demonstrate:

Takers: Michael Ealy, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, T.I., Matt Dillon, Jay Hernandez and Zoe Saldana;
Heat: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Jon Voight, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Jeremy Piven and fuck it, Tone Loc.

now, does Takers absolutely pale when compared to the murderer’s row of leads and supporting actors in Heat? ABSOLUTELY. but consider this sad, sad fact: the Takers list is probably putting more asses in the seats. i love Trejo and Studi and Levine to death, but absolutely no one but me gives a shit, so i can see a studio executive sees no difference between the two lists. although i totally grant that Saldana is an upgrade over Brenneman here.

–both feature a mysterious set of similarities: both feature awesome (and somewhat flashy) robbery crews, perhaps even to the point of similar wardrobes, although Takers mistakes “acting bad-ass” for Heat’s ruthless efficiency; both are pursued by a detective with daughter issues at home; said pursuing detective talks about shaped charges and degrees of difficulty; both have a flashy armored car robbery; both have robbers being chased throughout the city with their massive satchels filled with money (although while Heat had robbers toting what could have been bags filled with cash, the one carried during a chase scene in Takers clearly weighs NOTHING); the list goes on and on. now, i grant you that some of these things are not THAT unique –in fairness, almost every movie involving a heist HAS to have a flashy one– but they make me suspicious in light of the ensemble cast. Takers only really lacks the “hey, we got Pacino and De Niro together at last” thing.

now, to quote everyone’s favorite show about scenic Baltimore, when you come at the king, you best not miss. Takers, however, mistakes the only way actually out-Heat Heat –making a very similar movie with an even higher level of craft and/or material– with “well, let’s TRY to do the same thing, but even flashier.” so instead of an ambulance getaway, we get a HELICOPTER getaway. instead of camera work that highlights the reality of the robberies, we get camera work going above and beyond to make everything COOL.

02. Idris Elba’s British accent in the opening robbery
so our flashy crew is robbing a bank in their not-at-all-like-Heat suits and body armor, and Elba starts to give the crowd the De-Niro-style lines about “we’re not here to hurt you” and “don’t look at me” and all the rest … and all the while, he’s using a British accent. one of the ridiculous police officers even references it later.

now, i grant you that what passes for characterization in this film is that Elba is the British one, but here’s the thing: don’t you think a member of a high-speed robbery crew who presumably doesn’t want to get caught would AVOID an identifying trait like “obviously British accent?” especially when you consider that Brits are generally renowned for their ability to adopt other accents… AND especially considering that Elba HAS dropped his British accent for an American one on many occasions, such as in the aforementioned Wire. hell, have him drop the accent ONLY during the robbery.

03. TI’s recovery of his stashed firearm and money
so we’re supposed to see how TI’s character hits the ground running by IMMEDIATELY scoring a pistol and some cash from where he’s stashed them away years ago. i have some problems with this: one, why is it that you ALWAYS see people collecting these stashes, but never setting them up for the future? hopefully he’ll die by the end of this film so that he won’t need that again! and two, really, not one single crackhead randomly found this by now?

also… tucking a pistol into the back of your pants when said jeans are clearly sagged almost beyond recognition? does that even work? i have no admit it might (this is not how i wear my jeans OR how i carry my guns), so i don’t want to make this a full-on complaint, but i have a feeling i am being sold a bill of goods here.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown, seen here giving Sean Penn a sincere challenge for the “most punchable face in America” title

04. Chris Brown, period
one of the curses of a film with an ensemble cast full of “stars” is that you inevitably find one or two who are very famous (at the time at least) and who are clearly included ONLY because they are famous and DESPITE the fact that they are guaranteed to produce a performance that makes me want to gouge my eyes out; in Takers, we have Chris Brown filling this role.

now sometimes that non-acting star is making an effort and we have to admit, “well, he’s TERRIBLE, but we can tell he’s really making an effort, god bless him,” and sometimes, what the hell, the whole concept actually works… but, here, no, Chris Brown overacts in a manner that tells me his position was essentially, “sure, i’ll lower myself to accept a six-to-seven figure salary to appear in your film, but only as long as i am a totally sexy, totally cool bad-ass the entire time!” every time he speaks –hell, every time i see him on screen– my only thought is “why isn’t someone shooting him in the face RIGHT FUCKING NOW?!”

seriously, though, i find his voice incredibly annoying; when i hear it, i find myself considering the merits of suicide.

also, if the fact that he’s a terrible actor who should be kept away from films with a team of attack dogs does not bother you because he’s just SO CUTE or releases photos of himself naked with his junk out or whatever, and you’re thinking, “well, he’s in the film to bring in women viewers” … please remember that this IS a post-woman-beating Chris Brown we’re talking about here, so that shouldn’t work, right? right? i think there’s some gender-based commentary there.

counterpoint: Chris Brown’s character is VERY annoying, so maybe this is all intentional? and it’s a masterful job casting someone who cannot help but be annoying? counter-counterpoint: there is absolutely NO WAY that the writers of Takers are that fucking clever.

05. showing me Paul Walker’s naked ass
is the demographic you’re trying to get into the theaters for this film NOT turbo-masculine men who don’t really care much for Paul Walker’s naked ass? because i don’t think they found that any more necessary that i do. plus, we already have Chris Brown in this movie to attract the ladies, making the

06. the stupid fucking money launderer scene
this is another good example of the out-Heating Heat concept. now, you may remember that a subplot in Heat involves them trying to make a little extra money by selling stolen bonds to a money launderer; note, however, that this is an idea floated to De Niro by their fence, and there’s no pretension of these guys being knowledgeable of that aspect of crime (or even that level of finance): everything’s suggested by Jon Voight and expressed in basic terms.

in Takers, however, i get treated to a scene wherein i’m expected to believe EVERY MEMBER OF THIS CREW is spouting financial jargon with a mastery of the topic and advising the money launderer as to what he should do. do you know why armed robbers pay guys to launder money for them? because they’re NOT masters of the topic. would you, as a robber, really want to trust your money to someone who listens to what YOU say to do with the money?

and then, to add insult to injury, i’m force-fed the notion that our robbers are heroes because 10% of the money they rob “goes to the usual charities.” look, i’m watching the movie through their perspectives and we all love anti-heroes in America. you don’t need to try so hard, Luessenhop!

07. this film replacing “professionalism” with “coolness”
now, there is one thing this movie COULD have stolen from Heat: the notion that a scene where a crew of high-speed, distinctive armed robbers would be immediately hanging out in public showing off incredibly expensive cars and other luxury goods is RIDICULOUS.

i suppose you could assume that these guys are unknown to the authorities (and it certainly seems that way), because if they weren’t, you’d see police having a vague knowledge of their activities… but then i remember that one of the characters (TI) has recently been released from prison after serving time for armed robbery… and having been caught in the aftermath of a robbery as part of a crew that remains uncaught. unfortunately, if you have highly-skilled robbers act like act skilled robbers, they don’t get to act REALLY COOL for the cameras.

then again, this IS a heist movie wherein the most clever member of the team (Paul Walker), who is supposedly known for meticulous planning, says things like “bet big, win big” as being the only way to operate, so it might just be more effective to overlook all the logical inconsistencies and just assume this is the single luckiest band of criminals of all time.

Hayden Christensen, unfortunately not dying
don’t worry, everyone: that tiny little man will easily beat up that team of goons in hand-to-hand combat

08. making tiny men too physically potent
early in this film, TI effortlessly hurls a Russian gunman to the ground; later on, Hayden Christensen beats up something like one hundred goons in an office when he goes to buy some plastic explosive. now, i have often railed against the concept of making tiny, 95-pound women into these wrecking machines that toss huge men around, so let me be fair and do the same thing when 95-pound men are beating up everything in sight: no. just no. stop it.

i should also note that in Christensen’s case, it’s clearly not presented as a case where his technical fighting skills overpower his assailants, but one where his tiny frame absorbs a sincere beating while bashing a TEAM of men who are all twice his size into submission.

now, i grant you that much of my “curse you, tiny women” ranting is based in pure sexism, but that should also make it matter that much more how FURIOUS this tiny man nonsense makes me. and as a member of Team Tiny Dudes, it think we all now how much it hurts me to rail against their actions. still… it must be done.

09. TI’s armored car “play-by-play”
so we finally get to the big heist we’ve been promised (the one that TI wanted to be done in the style of the Italian Job, which is the kind of planning no robber you’re supposed to believe is real would EVER make)… and TI ends up doing this ridiculous “let me overreact to everything that’s occurring” running monologue during the entire thing. it’s fucking annoying because he’s literally just telling me THE THINGS I AM WATCHING OCCUR ON SCREEN. it’s not necessary. it adds absolutely nothing to this film, unless you think the sound of TI talking makes everything better.

you know how in fiction, people say things like “show, don’t tell?” this concept also applies to movies.

note: during the armored car heist, you can see the “coolness, not professionalism” thing come out again as Luessenhop tries for his own large-scale streets-of-LA shootout; the difference being, of course, that Heat’s is an all-time classic and Takers’… well, it’s not.

10. this consistently uneven characterization that keeps occurring
okay, so we have two cops (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez), with the former getting a TON of screen time for his father issues and the latter almost none, despite being a dirty cop forced into it by his financial situation.. we have two masterminds (Idris Elba and Paul Walker), with the former having an incredibly amount of time devoted to his drug-addicted sister’s problems and the latter having… nothing. i think all we know about him is that he likes what is supposedly excellent Scotch.

now, Takers really moves too fast (and is too poorly constructed) for such character studies that have NO BEARING on the plot to be taking up space in this film; honestly, it really would have been better to scale back Elba and Dillon and use that extra time for making the robbery crew seem more competent and less like a band of teenage girls posing in their latest outfits.

also, speaking of characterization: Michael Ealy has some sort of a romantic sub-plot in this film. we didn’t need that either.

Hayden Christensen, hopefully dying
you are correct if you assumed that this dramatic death is as incredibly lame as it looks

11. shitty dramatic death shootout

after the inevitable betrayal by TI, there’s a shootout in the hotel where the Russians he fucked over first run into the robbery crew he’s fucked over second. this is almost –ALMOST– an interesting concept, and it’s definitely a good scenario for a shootout, but it gets ruined by this over-dramatized, lame-to-the-bone shootout, featuring problems like:

–everyone being incredibly excited pre-shootout because Chris Brown shot a cop, despite the fact that this crew of criminals was just SHOOTING IT OUT IN BROAD DAYLIGHT WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS AROUND ARMORED TRUCKS;
–said shootout starting with Hayden Christensen being shot in the chest/stomach with a shotgun through a door, an injury that only hinders him when it’s dramatic and that appears to cause no visible injury;
–in fact, the notion that several people are shot almost point-blank with shotguns, a wound that causes neither blood nor damage to anyone’s clothing;
–an INCREDIBLE overuse of slow-motion and people shooting locks with pistols;
–a slow-motion, John-Woo-style leap into a dramatic death by Christensen over very loud, “deep” music, which is as terrible as it sounds;
–Russians shooting through walls as a team as opposed to looking for a target to shoot at.

it’s really, really fucking bad. and just when you thought that was the worst shootout…

12. shitty dramatic death shootout REDUX

so now Michael Ealy and Chris Brown are SO SAD after the events of the film that they have to die; if only we’d gotten some back story on them, their crushing depression might make more sense (although they do find Ealy’s girlfriend dead on a bar for some reason, so i suppose that romantic sub-plot was of SOME use). anyway, the house where they find their dead Zoe Saldana and their money stolen is surrounded by the police … so they wade out the front door in the same damn slow-motion to the same damn dramatic music and die in what is supposed to be a hail of gunfire, but which ACTUALLY seems to be “the awesome power of a very bright light.”

all that being said, this scene has a ton of shots of Ealy’s grotesquely-crying face in close-up, so he HAD to die after making me gaze upon that.

also… why did Ealy and Brown dramatically tuck pistols into the back of their pants when they intended to march out to their immediate deaths? did they HAVE to favor coolness over professionalism to the bitter end?

13. Stephen King’s review?
finally, let me point out that Wikipedia tells us that while “Takers received negative reviews from critics, garnering a 30%, or 4.5/10 rating, on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes” and the like, it ALSO added that “Stephen King, in his end of the year Entertainment Weekly column, listed it at #5 of his best films of 2010.”

so i guess what i am saying is that Takers made Stephen King go insane. and THAT i don’t like.

so that’ll do it for this week; i hope none of you make the same mistake i did and watch Takers. maybe next week will contain some actual comedy? maybe?

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