August 26, 2010


Reservoir Mutts

Grade: C

Director: John Luessenhop

Starring: Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, T.I., Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Chris Brown, Jay Hernandez, and Zoe Saldana

Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Matt Dillon stars in the armored car heist flick Takers, not to be confused with Armored, Dillon’s other heist flick from last December. In both Takers and The Losers, Idris Elba and Zoe Saldana played members of a group of guns-for-hire. But when it comes to derivation, Takers is a poor man’s Heat, both of them sprawling, L.A.-based crime thrillers in which robbers live a glamorous, dangerous life on the criminal edge while the cops on their trail cope with familial and financial troubles along the path to professional heroics.

Indeed, the first half of Takers – including the opening bank heist – is nearly a point-by-point replica of Michael Mann’s neo-noir. Later, strains of Lisa Gerrard’s score from Mann’s The Insider even accompany a slow-motion, goose down-flying gun battle inside a suite at the Roosevelt Hotel, a scene that manages to rip-off the Mexican standoff in Tony Scott’s True Romance, just for good measure.

But, whereas Heat was directed by Mann and starred Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Takers was directed by someone named John Luessenhop and costars Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, and the rapper T.I. Indeed, the most authentic moment in this fast, furious, and feckless spectacle is the sight of T.I.’s character being released from prison.

That ex-con, Ghost, hooks up with his old gang (Elba, Walker, Christensen, Michael Ealy, and singer Chris Brown) to hatch an “Italian job” against an armored car convey. Ghost’s former squeeze, Rachel (Saldana), got engaged to partner-in-crime Jake (Ealy) while Ghost was in the clink. This fact alone, together with T.I. inability to project nuance or, I dunno, acting ability, forecasts where this clunker is rambling.

Four credited screenwriters needed to pen all those shootouts, camera-in-a-blender foot chases, and slow-motion montages present an unreality born out of the Grand Theft Auto mold, where the police are useless cannon fodder for macho criminals who, with impunity, hijack TV news choppers, shred an entire floor of a historic hotel, C4 craters into downtown city streets to swallow up armored vans.

Meanwhile, Dillon’s Jack Welles and his partner, Eddie (Jay Hernandez), go about flipping snitches and busting in doorways in a search for clues when they’re not dodging periphery, perfunctory I.A. investigations or Jack isn’t squander weekend visitation with his daughter by doing recon on suspects. It feels like Jack literally twists the arm of a cracked-out, reluctant witness because it was simply time to squeeze in that trope.

Even through its air of inevitability, Takers still remains relatively watchable until the thrown-together final act, which dissolves into a mélange of contrivance, overcooked machismo, and misplaced martyrdom. It, like the film as a whole, has more bullets than brains.

Neil Morris

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