Takers is a typical heist movie with solid performances that save the film from its weak script.
Takers Director: John Luessenhop
Starring: Idris Elba, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, Matt Dillon
The heist film has got to be one of the most dependable genres in Hollywood.
Like the romantic comedy, its strength lies in an iron-clad formula that can produce watchable results even when executed haphazardly.
This is why Hollywood producers often use this genre to launch promising filmmakers and potential A-list actors into the bigtime.
It is also a favourite for actors looking to resuscitate careers or remind viewers they are still among the living.
In the past decade, the heist film has also served the purpose of launching the careers of hip-hop stars who view the genre, with its penchant for flashy attire and quotable one-liners, as an ideal extension of their video clips and persona.
Takers ticks all these boxes. We have an up-and-coming director, John Luessenhop, finally given a decent budget to showcase his abilities.
In the quietly charismatic Elba, we possibly have a major new star, and with the Grammy award-winners Tip "TI" Harris and Chris Brown, we have the next bunch of urban music stars making their claim for the silver screen.
As for Matt Dillon, Paul Walker and Hayden Christensen, it's a chance to get stuck into more high-profile work after a string of B-grade films.
Takers focuses on the five-man criminal crew: Gordon (Elba), John (Walker), Jake (Ealy), Jess (Brown) and AJ (Christensen).
How these guys manage to evade the police while using their loot to run swanky nightclubs and flashy cars is not discussed, but let's just say that they do what they do very well.
After celebrating another daring daylight robbery involving a news helicopter, the crew decides to slow things down and enjoy the good life.
The downtime is short-lived, however, when former Takers member Ghost (Harris) re-emerges from prison after a botched robbery.
Torn between distrust for Ghost and the potential of a $25 million (Dh92m) payday, the crew agrees to his proposal to pull off their most daring heist yet.
On their trail is the grizzled cop Jack Welles (Dillon), who with his long-suffering partner Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) is prepared to break a few heads in order to get his men.
There are two ways one can watch Takers.
The first is to sneer at the screen as the film hurtles on without any regard for the dozens of clichés it piles on.
The second is to surrender to the whizzing camera work and pounding soundtrack and enjoy what is a well-executed film.
The key to the film's success lies in its unabashed attempt to entertain while playing it straight.
There is none of the winking at the audience that made Oceans 11 a tad smug or the self importance that crippled Ronin.
Instead, one can laugh at the ludicrously funny one-liners such as this classic: "We are Takers gentlemen, that's what we do, we take."
Takers gets many of its visual cues from modern crime television dramas.
The rapid editing and relentless pacing nods to 24 while the sepia-toned depiction of Los Angeles is straight from the NCIS Los Angeles handbook.
But the director John Luessenhop also uses his budget to live out his cinematic fantasies.
The choreographed gun battles in the final act, with its slow motion shots and operatic music score, is reminiscent of John Woo's Hong Kong-era films.
The actors here also do their best with the film's script, undoubtedly its weakest link.
Elba did not have to stretch too far as Gordon is a virtual carbon copy of his acclaimed television role Stringer Bell in The Wire. The only difference this time around is the London accent, which may take viewers a few minutes to get used to. With the exception of a few wooden scenes, Harris delivers a passable performance as the double-crossing Ghost, while the emotive Ealy gives the film a level of gravitas.
However, the person to gain the most from this average outing is Matt Dillon.
The prominently jawed one's gritty performance as the weary cop Welles is a reminder that he is better than the recent sub-par material he has been involved with.