A group of well-dressed men are meeting on an upper floor in a large urban office building. They’re discussing foreign investments, offshore bank accounts, and the subtle movements in the world currency market. But everything is not as it appears. This is the same group of old friends who just robbed a bank. The execution was elaborately planned, so that they were in and out within a minute. They were well armed, but had enough self restraint not to shoot anyone indiscriminately. They merely sprayed the ceiling for shock effect, and to insure quick compliance among the startled customers. They possessed enough technology, and sufficiently curbed their greed, to identify the marked bills, and discard them. And they engineered their getaway with a daring ambush of a news helicopter, landing on the roof to cover the breaking story of the bank robbery on the first floor. And, of course, they knew enough to wear masks in the elevator, which always has cameras. Most importantly, they knew how to use C-4 explosives with great precision, to blow apart the vault door quickly without hurting anyone. It was truly a masterful job. And it wasn’t their first, either.
Detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) is both impressed and flummoxed by these sophisticated, coordinated bank robbers. These guys were impressive in their preparation and execution, which, the way Welles sees it, will only make taking them down that much sweeter. He doesn’t have much to go on. He scans the surveillance tapes, looking for clues, tailing “persons of interest” on his day off. Welles doesn’t have a home life anymore, since he’s recently estranged from his wife. He has a young daughter, but he’s distracted even around her. This case bugs him. And in the meantime, he’s being hounded by Internal Affairs, presumably over some overenthusiastic interrogation of a suspect, which produced the desired information, but he still has to answer for his measured explosiveness.
There is honor among our Upscale Gang of Thieves — they split everything equally, and they are all ready to hurry off to their separate, high-end consumptive lives, when they receive an unexpected, and rather unwelcome, visitor. It seems they had a rogue colleague, several years back, who wound up being shot in the course of a previous heist, and was subsequently captured and imprisoned. Now he’s out on parole, and wants his cut of that operation. He’s developed a kind of malicious swagger in prison, and the genteel-acting group now feels uncomfortable around him, particularly in his insinuations of their abandonment, and his insistence on his continuing loyalty to them, even when he could have given them up, but didn’t. They promise to accommodate him. He, in turn, offers them the prospect of a quick, easy heist, of an armored car, because a fellow inmate, a Russian, was able to acquire the precise route, but only for the following Tuesday. The rest of the group is not comfortable with this idea; they like to do their own target selection, and their own careful planning. They don’t want to be dependent on the correct information of people they don’t know. It turns out their hesitancy was well founded, the Russian has Mob connections, and they don’t play well with others, either.
Predictably, the hurry-up heist is an off-the-rails disaster. As everyone scrambles to find some order amid the chaos, the viewer just hangs on for the high-energy ride. Expect some plot surprises. Know that there will be personal violence. But there is sufficient reserve in the portrayal of that violence, as well as in the street language and relational interaction, to warrant a PG-13 rating instead of an R, which will also broaden the potential audience.
“Takers,” as cross-cultural urban legend, is that rare medium well done.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor, Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.