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September 20, 2010

Backfire

Takers is a heist movie, but it’s not really about the two ridiculously improbable, unimaginative endeavors of its thieving protagonists. They spend precious little time organizing their not-so-elaborate robberies and decide instead to live it up in fashionable clubs and upscale homes, clutching expensive liquor in one hand and a fistful of cash in the other. This is a male power fantasy that completely misunderstands aesthetics, mistaking impeccable suits and sleek cars for visual beauty while shouldering a story that is as unwieldy as it is formulaic.

The “takers” themselves are a group of well-dressed bank robbers that pull off heists so ridiculous that they could only be feasible in a universe where dumb luck counts as genius. After finishing up one of its nigh-impossible jobs, the crew is approached by Ghost (played by rapper T.I.), a former partner who was arrested during a previous job, with a proposition for another lucrative heist. Although they don’t completely trust Ghost’s intentions, the group eventually agrees to go along with his plan. Meanwhile, Detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon), the archetypal rough-around-the-edges cop who’s good at heart, dedicates himself to catching the crooks while simultaneously struggling with internal issues in the police department.

Most of the characters have some personal problems to address, but these little detours are flimsy attempts at reaching beyond the altruistic or greedy natures of the cops and robbers. One of the takers has a sister who is a recovering drug addict, there’s a cop with a very sick child, Detective Welles is unhappily divorced, etc. Such digressions fail miserably in humanizing the characters, but they do succeed remarkably in making the movie even more tiresome than its boring plot and uninspired camerawork would suggest. Even during the gunfights most of the action is obscured with jerky cutting and poor framing, so that it’s impossible to really get excited about the kinetic mess on screen.

The dragging shambles of the movie’s plot slowly collapses as Detective Welles draws ever closer to identifying the thieves. The problem is that Dillon never seems like much of a credible threat and ends up virtually discarded by the third act. When he finally shows up to save the day or get revenge or whatever, he is rendered completely and pathetically useless. Furthermore, in an incomprehensible twist, the aforementioned drug-addicted sister returns to the story just around this climactic moment to serve up some unintentional comic relief with her addled shuffling and rambling. It feels as if the story has finally imploded and absurd coincidences are all that remain.

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