Making the Grades
The cops and robbers genre has been around for a long time—though in the early days it often involved a sheriff and gun-slinging outlaws. But movie figures who are sworn to protect and to serve are having a hard time of late. No longer are they the heroes wearing the white hats and restoring justice. It is the felons who get away with the money, the murders and most often the girl.
Following the formula for films like Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, and The Italian Job, Takers features a cast of men who feel no remorse over lining their pockets with currency from other people’s savings accounts. (They do, however, donate ten percent of their haul to charity—presumably as a way to give back to the community after ripping off individuals who earn their livelihood in a more socially acceptable manner.) Living in luxurious homes, they use the piles of bills they have stashed away to imbibe in the best liquor and cigars, drive expensive cars and outfit themselves in top-of-the-line suits. To put it simply, there is nothing shabby about the everyday life of these thieves.
But greed can get to even the most charitable of crooks. The day after they make off with bags of loot from a California bank, Gordon (Idris Elba), John (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen) and brothers Jesse (Chris Brown) and Jake (Michael Ealy) are unexpectedly visited by an old team member who had his sentence shortened for good behavior. While Ghost (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) may have been the model inmate, he is far from reformed. With next week’s armored car route in his hands, he proposes a new heist with a $20 million payoff.
Compared to these high living criminals, LAPD officers Jake Wells (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) are a sorry sight. Eddie lives in the suburbs with his wife (Zulay Henao) and their young son (Harrison Miller) who is facing serious medical issues. Jake is a rumpled, short-tempered workaholic devoted to justice. He gets a bad rap when he follows up on a lead in the robbery on the day he is supposed to be spending quality time with his daughter (Isa Briones).
Yet in reality the police do little more in this storyline than keep George and his gang from publically flaunting the source of their funds. The real conflict comes when a group of badder rogues attempt to steal the hot money from the bank robbers. The result is endless exchanges of gunfire. (For apparent artistic purposes, the director accompanies one lengthy hotel room shootout scene with strains of violin music and millions of feathers from perforated pillows drifting gently through the air.) The only thing that outnumbers the barrage of bullets is the constant use of scatological slang and profanities that are teamed up with frequent portrayals of smoking and alcohol use. A brief, shadowed depiction of male buttock nudity is also shown when a man enters a pool where two women wait for him.
Although there is some collateral damage along the way, these criminals not only glamorize robbery, murder and the destruction of public property but they do it with a sense of entitlement—as if all that cash was due them. But then what can you expect from a group of guys who admittedly revere Genghis Khan as their historic hero.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Takers.
How do films like this one glamorize crime? What consequences do these criminals suffer? Does the fear of consequences outweigh any of the allurement? How does a sense of entitlement influence these characters?
Why are money heists often portrayed as “victimless” felonies? What impact would this spree have on the bank’s customers?
How do the filmmakers build empathy for the thieves? For what character do they not build sympathy? Why do you think they fail to do this?
One police detective tells another, who has sacrificed time with his daughter in order to solve an important case, to "take care of the real stuff", referring to his family. Should the character who receives this advice be condemned considering the situation? How do parents balance work and home time? Does one ever suffer at the expense of the other? Is it necessary at times to focus on one over the other?