Ray Moody (Pat Healy), Take Me’s hapless, horrendously toupeed protag, is the brains behind Kidnap Solutions, LLC, whose very name suggests the mixture of ruthlessness and entrepreneurial spirit that typifies the man. Ray is in the business of simulated abductions: Clients hire him to kidnap them and hold them hostage, sometimes as an extreme deprogramming method (for example, Ray may shove burgers down your throat to get you to lay off fatty foods), other times simply as a boutique thrill. Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling), a mysterious and beautiful platinum blonde, is very much in the latter camp. A bored businesswoman looking for a good time, she hires Ray for a three-day session, but when the cops start knocking on Ray’s door looking for Anna, he begins to think that this latest job may be a setup.
Like a comedic, low-stakes play on David Fincher’s The Game, Take Me features plenty of plot twists, shifting power dynamics, and an overriding mystery about who’s really in control. If the screenplay features few surprises (the final twist is particularly predictable), it nevertheless maintains the pace and strikes a fairly tricky balance between gritty thriller and madcap farce. Healy’s direction is straightforward and unflashy, leaning a bit too heavily on Heather McIntosh’s mock-jaunty score to maintain an air of ironic breeziness but managing to ground the film’s zany premise in a sense of reality.
That’s thanks in large part to the chemistry of the two leads, Healy’s flop-sweating used-car-salesman vibe offering a stark and intriguing contrast to Schilling’s enigmatic and layered turn, which finds the middle ground between icy femme fatale and helpless victim of circumstances; Schilling never tips her hand as to which one Anna really is. But Schilling and Healy never quite overcome the fact that Take Me is a suspense comedy that simply isn’t very suspenseful or very funny and, just as importantly, never finds a thematic through line. The opening scene, in which Ray applies for a small-business loan, momentarily positions him as a comically twisted avatar of the American dream, a sunshiny analogue to the sociopath played by Jake Gyllenhaal in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, but Healy and screenwriter Mike Makowsky never really extend this vision of Ray beyond a few mentions of his financial hardships and his constant protestations that he’s really good at his job.
Beneath its crime-comedy exterior, Take Me is fundamentally a character study, one that uses the narrative’s escalating stakes to constantly test Ray’s conscience—an emphasis which has the unfortunate side effect of rendering Anna little more than a device. And what we ultimately learn about Ray—that he’s not as good a person as he thinks he is—is plainly obvious from the start.