If there were such a thing as GQ Jr. or Esquire for Kids — a young-dude analogue for magazines like Seventeen or Teen Vogue — it might be something like “Takers,” a primer in juvenile, aspirational cool for guys who might not be able to handle the suavity of the “Oceans 11” franchise or the leathery angst of “The Expendables.”
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Not that everyone involved in the movie is young, by any means. Matt Dillon, once among the prettiest faces in Hollywood, has long since grown into a lean, haggard maturity, and could play a weary, stressed-out Los Angeles detective in his sleep. He gives “Takers” a measure of gravity, just as Idris Elba, playing Mr. Dillon’s smooth-but-beleaguered bad-guy counterpart — the De Niro to his Pacino, to the extent that comparisons to “Heat” are warranted — gives it a shot of low-key, no-nonsense professionalism.
As for the rest, there is plenty of nonsense, a great deal of stylish posturing and clothes-horsing, and a few action sequences that manage to be both gripping and preposterous. The story is a basic heist plot, with a few complications thrown in for texture and filigree. A group of well-dressed, ruthless and highly polished robbers knocks over a bank. Led by Gordon Cozier (Mr. Elba), they favor fine clothes and watches, single-malt Scotch and a luxury lifestyle that blends fashion-magazine gloss with hip-hop bravado.
None of them is especially interesting. Or rather, the actors have more cachet than the guys they are playing. The almost talented Chris Brown and the brooding Michael Ealy play black brothers, while Paul Walker is the white man with the furrowed brow, and Hayden Christensen is the other white guy, who wears a silly skinny-brimmed hat and an annoying smirk. They seem to enjoy their work, which is more than can be said for Detective Jack Welles (Mr. Dillon) and his partner, Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez), who manfully shoulder the burden of cop-movie clichés. Welles has a young daughter who he loves desperately but neglects in favor of this job (which also obviously destroyed his marriage), while Hatcher is a family man with a sick child and growing economic worries.
The cops and robbers are set on a collision course when Ghost (Tip Harris, better known to rap fans as T.I.) a former member of Cozier’s crew, is released from prison and cajoles his erstwhile confederates into one more big job. They trust him even though he seems smarter and more ruthless than any of them — Mr. Harris, with his slow, Southern speech patterns and his menacing, reptilian charisma, dominates every scene he is in — and even though Ghost is clearly jealous that one of his colleagues has taken up with his former girlfriend, Lily (Zoe Saldana, reduced to slinky decoration). Meanwhile Cozier has a sister (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) just out of rehab, Welles has some trouble with internal affairs, and the clock is ticking toward a big showdown.