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When Rob Hardy and Will Packer first came onto the film scene, they were peddling their small budget film, Trois.  It wasn’t their best work but it wasn’t the worst movie I’d ever seen.  Fast forward 10 years and the men of Rain Forest Films have finally come into their own as producers.  Their latest project, Takers, opens in theaters today.

The script was written by Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop and Avery Duff. It is the story of five gentlemen — Gordon (played by Idris Elba), John (Paul Walker), Jake (Michael Ealy), Jesse (Chris Brown) and A.J. (Hayden Christensen) — who make their living taking from others.  But their world comes crashing down when their old friend and fellow taker, Ghost (T.I.) gets out of prison and sells them on a take.

Allen and company’s plot seems really simple and it’s Luessenhop’s directing that brings the film together.

Sure, it’s a heist film in the classic heist tradition.  The fivesome have found a simple, yet effective, way to rob banks and never get caught.  But there’s so much more to these characters.

For instance, when meeting or even having a night on the town, all the men, including Ghost, dress in suits, complete with  shirts, ties, cuff links, and their shoes are polished.  This aspect of the film alone gives Takers a film noir touch that I’m sure Luessenhop and company were going for, anyway.  I love to see men of color dressed up; it makes them even more appealing.

Elba is superb, using his own British accent. I didn’t realize he was so tall, until I saw him standing next to his film sister Naomi (played by Marianne Jean-Baptist using her own British accent).  One of the best scenes in the film is when Elba’s Gordon rises from his bed in his underwear which does little to hide his attributes.

Walker and Brown essentially seem to play themselves.  Their characters seem to lack depth.  Ealy is a bit more characteristic in that he has a fiancée, Lilli (Zoe Saldana).  His Jake is also the voice of reason among the men; too bad they don’t listen to him.  And Christensen is surprisingly entertaining as one of the young scamps of the group.  He can also kick butt.

T.I. still needs work in the acting department.  He had too many pauses in his performance, often seeming as if he’s trying to remember his lines, while being ruthless.  That is not a good combination for someone who is supposed to be feared.  He seemed more annoying than scary.

Matt Dillon as Detective Jake is decent.  Jake is a total work-a-holic and it has obviously affected his home life and even his relationship with his daughter Sunday (Isa Briones).  Jay Hernandez is Eddie, Jake’s partner.  Hernandez’s Eddie is a little different from what I’ve seen of Hernandez in the past but he owns it.  Steve Harris makes a few appearances as an Internal Affairs investigator.

Saldana is good as the requisite girlfriend/love interest, especially since she’s the only girlfriend represented.  All of the other men are relationship-less.  I kind of like that dynamic, though.  There wasn’t in-your-face gratuitous sex.  The film is more plot-driven than skin-driven.  I have to applaud the screenwriters, director, Hardy and Packer.  Hardy and Packer’s films began with raunchy sexual situations. 
Now, they’ve made one that can stand on its own without all of the Hollywood skin.

Another favorite scene of mine is a chase scene between Detectives Jake and Eddie and Jesse.  I didn’t realize Chris Brown is so acrobatic.  It’s also a nice touch that the takers are smart about their money.  They invest it and also give to charity.

All in all, Takers is an awesome film with good-looking, distinguished and sexy gentlemen having fun doing bad things.  The plot is simple and uncomplicated and a total fantasy ride.  If this is what 10 years of filmmaking has done for Hardy and Packer, then I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next 10 years.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com.

Photo: Actor Idris Elba