Remember when Paul Walker had a career, Matt Dillon had indie credibility, Jay Hernandez was just a cute face, and Chris Brown was an R&B singer without a rap sheet? If you’re feeling nostalgic for those days, then there’s Takers, one of those late-summer ensemble action movies that feels vaguely like a recreation of another action movie recast with out-of-work celebrities. So happily derivative is the film that Walker is introduced in the first 10 minutes with his now-famous backside facing the camera, Joy Ride-style, as if to tell us everything’s going to be okay, we’ve seen it all before.
And we have, sort of: The plot is more or less Heat crossed with the corporate-fratboy hijinks of Entourage. Like that HBO series, this is a film seemingly erected for its executive producers’ egos: When they’re not robbing banks, T.I., Brown, and the rest of the crew pose in high-end men’s wear, compare scotches, and drop references to Bloomberg News like thieves as imagined by a men’s magazine. On the other side of the good-guy-bad-guy divide are Dillon and Hernandez—the movie’s only concession to decent acting—as two detectives onto the group’s high-stakes plan to jack $12 million from an armored car, each of whom is allowed one crying scene for added gravitas.
Despite the generic heist setup (a final showdown between Brown and Hernandez is modeled almost exactly after the one between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Heat), Takers does seem strangely in tune with both the times and the off-screen lives of its respective stars: The characters walk and talk more like investment bankers than criminals, and a chase sequence following Brown through the streets of Los Angeles is only really interesting if you know the singer’s personal backstory. (The crowd at the preview screening cheered for him as if he were running from his own felony assault charges.) According to the film’s preposterous but sometimes hilarious view of modern criminality, hijacking several million dollars isn’t so different from working in finance or being a pop star, after all.