The Take (2016) Review
The Take is a 2016 action thriller about a CIA agent and a young con artist who come together in trying to stop a terrorist threat in Paris.
Coming up with new ways to bring unlikely people together so they might buddy up to solve crimes or prevent horrifying acts of devastation has left screenwriters scrambling to be creative and unique, despite that fact that all we really want is just a good story. It was 1993’s Last Action Hero with Arnold Schwarzenegger that parodied it best by having a police desk sergeant randomly team up increasingly curious characters together, including a cartoon cat. And in the more than twenty years since, nothing has changed. With The Take, formerly titled Bastille Day, we once again find two improbable characters putting their heads together to win the day and for some of it, scratches that action movie itch, but comes up short almost everywhere else.
On the streets of Paris, a young talented pick-pocket named Michael Mason (Richard Madden) snags a bag from a wig-wearing weeping woman sitting on a flight of steps. Inside the bag, he finds a raggedy teddy bear and figuring he’s got nothing of any value, tosses it on a pile of trash in the city. What he doesn’t know however, but soon finds out, is that the bear is rigged with an explosive and when it detonates, kills four people. Captured on CCTV, he draws the attention the French police but also a rebel American CIA agent named Sean Briar (Idris Elba), on assignment in France.
Once Briar gets his hands on Mason, he discovers the kid is telling the truth about not being involved and the two realize there is a dangerous conspiracy afoot. Now they must figure out what’s really going on and put a stop to a plot that could see even more innocent deaths. Racing against time and with no one else to trust but each other, they take to the streets to hammer home some justice.
Directed by James Watkins, The Take is a slickly-produced film that unabashedly knows exactly what it wants to accomplish and sets about doing that with all the subtlety and nuance of a train wreck, playing out like a cable channel cop show episode with a bigger budget. The story skips along with little suspense as it swings from comedy to drama towards its inevitable conclusion, with tropey dialogue and endless clichés that don’t offer much in terms of surprises, but for what it wants to be, one can’t really find fault in the outcome. It’s the reason most people buy the same kind of hamburger every day. There’s comfort in consistency.
I’m convinced that no one knows what to do with the immeasurably dynamic presence of Idris Elba. The man is gigantic talent, a leading actor that should be headlining the biggest blockbusters in the industry, and yet he keeps showing up in these B-grade films that wholly underuse his skills and constantly play into the tough guy role he made so engaging in his BBC series, Luther. The guy carries a movie like Atlas with the world on his shoulders. And he does so here as well.
Watkins does some good work with a few moments of action, particularly a snappy sequence in the back of a panel van and a rooftop chase that are both well-choreographed and directed, though there are too many others that are simply too flat. A smart screenplay by Andrew Baldwin, in his debut, has some decidedly good twists, but relies on contrivances and convenience in getting most of it to come together. Like so many of these kinds of movies, plots are constructed around a gimmick, so once you know that Mason is a pickpocket, well, you can guess the rest.
Paris of course, looks as good as always and there are a number of glorious shots that give the city its due. Most of the cast pulls their weight and the mix of English and French lend it a bit of authenticity despite some dubious, sometimes silly accents. The Take is a perfectly suitable little thriller that won’t leave any lasting impressions but does serve to further advance the position that Elba is ready for something far, far better.
The Take (2016)
Director: James Watkins
Writer: Andrew Baldwin
Stars: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon
Genre: Action, Crime
Language: English, French