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08/27/2010

Crime and semi-punishment

Think of a hip-hop reimagined update of the classic 1950s heist movie "Rififi."

Now, throw in a "Crash" intersection of characters and circumstances.  And don't forget to showcase it all with a shaky cam and enough firepower to reduce Fort Knox to rubble.

Do all that, as sophomore director John Luessenhop has, and you'll get "Takers," an average crime thriller that manages to showcase some good actors and popular hip-hop performers.

Matt Dillon, who played a conflicted cop in "Crash" (2004), portrays a beleaguered veteran L.A. detective.  He's trying to crack a ring of bank robbers who plan meticulously, execute concisely and vanish for about a year between high-dollar jobs.

"Takers," among other things, is a showcase for hip-hoppers expanding into the movie game.  Tip "T.I." Harris, who appeared in "American Gangster" in 2007, plays Ghost, the only member of the bank gang caught and sent to prison.

When he gets out, Ghost rushes his old pals into a job they don't have time to properly prepare for.  He has his reasons, which figure into the plot and won't be revealed here.

For the first 45 minutes or so, "Takers" struggles to find its place as an entertainment entity.  This thought rattled through my mind:  Has someone given a group of singers and actors a camera and told them to just improvise something?  It feels that disjointed in the early going.

Once it settles into a heist movie and the characters are semi-sufficiently established, a so-so, but extremely energetic crime thriller with volatile gun play emerges.

Dillon convinces as an dedicated, overzealous cop who faces the consequences when he improvises a take-your-daughter-to-work day.  Idris Elba ("The Wire"), Paul Walker ("The Fast and the Furious"), Hayden Crhistensen ("Star Wars Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith") and Chris Brown (infamous for a major dust-up with former girlfriend Rihanna) all serve their characters well.

"Takers" plays best for devoted fans of the actors and/or hip-hoppers involved, though.  Once the shooting stops and the smoke clears, what's left is a bland, difficult-to-decipher action-thriller with more volume and firepower than creativity or style.

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