The fine British actor Idris Elba has become an international star thanks to his performance as a gangster in the American TV series, The Wire. In Takers, he gets to use his real accent as Gordon, the leader of a team of absurdly up-market, high tech bank robbers - though it is typical of this fast-moving heist flick that the presence in LA of an English professional thief remains unexplained.
Takers comes out of a B-movie sub-genre that emerged in the 1990s and was targeted at an "urban" audience - the hip-hop-inspired gangster movie starring well-known rap music performers. The films tended to have all-black casts and to draw heavily on The Godfather. The cast of Takers, however, is both multi-racial and very nearly top of the line. As well as Elba, it boasts Matt Dillon as the cop who wants to take down Gordon's team, as well as Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Zoe Saldana from Avatar, and Hayden Christensen.
As the film opens, the gang use a variety of disguises to get past security in an LA skyscraper that hosts a large bank. They execute a perfectly planned, almost non-violent robbery and get away rather improbably using a press helicopter.
You then see them organising the transport of their new millions to offshore banks and preparing to live large until it is time to do another Ocean's Eleven-type heist. Matt Dillon's scowling detective is determined to catch them but his chances are minimal.
However, neither Gordon nor the others can resist when a colleague named Ghost gets out of prison and proposes a new heist. They don't know that Ghost (co-producer and rapper T I Harris) is in league with vicious Russian gangsters, though he is so nasty and resentful that it is hard to believe that these savvy robbers could be possibly taken in by him.
But then the script feels like it was written by 13-year-olds happy to crib from their favourite crime films. And there is something equally amateur about the way director John Luessenhop overuses crimson filters, close-ups and slow motion for the overlong gunfights. On the other hand, Takers does boast a genuinely spectacular chase scene with elements of parkour - the French-invented art of leaping from building to building
Like so much rap music, Takers is imbued with an adolescent male sentimentality. Despite all the expensive suits, homes and cars, the criminal heroes - and their police nemeses - are supposed to be more concerned with honour and family than with greed. The filmmakers, however, seem much more turned on by flash, cash and bling.