Paul Walker, T.I., Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba, Takers

Sony Picture

Review in a Hurry: A well-rounded cast of character actors (plus Paul Walker) tries to pull off a big robbery while obnoxious alcoholic cop Matt Dillon attempts to stop them. Very nearly a good little heist movie, Takers generates the occasional interesting plot twist but fails at the most basic level of creating characters worth caring about.

The Bigger Picture: The bank robbery that kicks off Takers delivers a few genuine surprises, not the least of which is that Hayden Christensen can capably fool people into thinking he's someone other than who he is. And it's cool to see a movie so color-blind in its casting that actors both black and white are equal-opportunity, elitist asskickers. Christensen's A.J. sports the most prison-style tatts, while Michael Ealy's Jake is the biggest Scotch snob.

It doesn't spoil much to reveal that the initial heist goes down as smoothly as 10-year-old Macallan. But of course, the inevitable "one last job" rears its head as former team member Ghost (Tip "T.I." Harris, giving his best '90s-era Snoop Dogg snarl) gets out of prison, possessing a confidential armored car route he snagged from a Russian gangster. Though it violates the team's usual sense of planning and discretion, they move fast to plan a smooth car-jacking in the next five days.

Meanwhile Dillon's Detective Welles is busy trying to find clues to solve the first robbery, but it doesn't help that he's hugely unprofessional and yells at everybody. Partner Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) tries to mellow him out, but even this nice-guy cop has issues.

As does the script. It's cool to see a movie that doesn't feel the need to make everyone likable, but the four credited screenwriters here don't manage to make anyone worthy of our sympathy, from the rub-it-in-our-faces-rich thieves to the corrupted cops who pursue them. Idris Elba's Gordon Jennings is given a drug-addicted sister in lieu of character development; a brief cameo by Zoe Saldana suffices for both Ghost's and Jake's backstory. When we see toward the end that singer-turned-actor Chris Brown's character is apparently an expert in parkour, one might wonder why this wasn't established sooner.

Most hilarious about Takers is the way it goes out of its way to point out that what we're watching takes place in Los Angeles. Characters gratuitously drop references to the La Brea Tar Pits, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Pershing Square, the Farmer's Market and so on so often that you could easily make a drinking game out of it. Yet out of towners won't care, and locals will probably shrug.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Considering there is no clear sympathetic protagonist, we will say this—the climax legitimately keeps you guessing as to who will prevail.

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