Posted on January 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm
Why make a movie with so many first-rate performers and give central roles to people who cannot act and have no star power on screen? For the answer, read the credits. Rap star T.I. and R&B star Chris Brown are producers. And they have produced the movie they thought would be fun to star in rather than the movie that would be fun to watch. They were smart enough to surround themselves with top talent but not smart enough to learn from them.
This is the second low-grade armored car robbery film in months and every part of it feels overused, sketched in, or glossed over. The most important element of a heist film is to make it clear whose side we are supposed to be on. The second most important element is to make it clear what the challenge of the heist is and let us see as the problems are solved. This movie fails at both.
It opens with a bank robbery, expertly executed by a group of characters whose backgrounds, motives, and expertise are not considered worth exploring. “The degree of difficulty’s off the charts,” a detective says almost admiringly. We know they’re supposed to be cool because they move in slow motion with a bit of jazz in the score.
Matt Dillon is the cop who picks up on details everyone else ignores, but risks losing his family. There is a goofy scene that has him following a suspect with his little daughter in the car, as she gets sadder and sadder about his broken promise. He has a partner, played by the always-likable Jay Hernandez. We could easily be rooting for them, but the movie seems to want us to be on the side of the robbers without giving us any reason to do so. They seem to be doing it just for the high of getting away with something. “Ten percent to the usual charities,” they tell their money manager, followed by a brisk discussion of basis points and the relative benefits of the Cayman Islands versus the Dutch Antilles for offshore money storage.
They are a careful crew who insist on a year between jobs until something comes up that is so juicy they cannot resist. Or is it a trap?
There’s a showy chase scene that gives Chris Brown and director John Luessenhop a chance to demonstrate some panache, but it goes on too long. A big shoot-out scene in slow motion with mournful music on the soundtrack is copied from much better movies. And there are elements taken from bad movies as well, like the cop who for no reason at all fails to call for back-up.
T.I. is not up to the pivotal role of “Ghost,” the member of the group who has just been released from prison and feels twice-wronged. Every time he takes center stage, the movie sags and his brief attempt at flamboyance — a quote from Genghis Khan — is just silly. His flat affect is intended to be cool and mysterious, but next to arresting performers like Idris Elba (getting a chance to use his real accent for once) and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, he seems to fade away. The only thing these takers really steal is your time.