The Take – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Our economy is driven by the almighty dollar. You can’t go a day without hearing about the rising cost of gas or the volatility of the stock market. All the same, people love making that quick buck—even if it means stealing.

The Take isn’t a morality tale for which we are supposed to sympathize with the criminal. The heart of its story is with a robbery victim. John Leguizamo gives a strong performance as Felix De La Pena, an armored car driver who is struggling to make ends meet; he’s married and the father of two. One Friday afternoon his truck is hijacked by Adell Baldwin (Tyrese Gibson). Adell has no beef with Felix; he’s just a criminal looking for a score. After Felix makes all the pickups for the day, they go back to the armored company depot so that Adell and his co-conspirators can clean out any remaining safes. But before Adell makes his getaway he shoots Felix in the head, leaving him for dead. Close to fatal but Adell’s a bad shot. Definitely not the work of a professional killer.

Felix’s recovery is the film’s essence, and in some ways it’s its own parable. He has difficulty adjusting to life after the robbery. With a damaged front lobe, Felix experiences mood swings, depression and paranoia. His relationship with his wife, Marina (Rosie Perez), is strained. Before the robbery everything was fine, but now there are moments where Marina is scared for her life. A moment of intimacy between Leguizamo and Perez – the scene barely lit, their characters in silhouette – turns to violence with John pulling Rosie’s head back in a forceful grip because she refuses to give him Vicodin. It is a powerful scene that further expounds upon the struggles in Felix’s life.

John Leguizamo’s performance, and what he brings to the role of Felix, takes what would have been your typical urban crime thriller and gives it a little substance. Sadly, that’s pretty much the only redeeming quality of the picture. The Pate brothers, Jonas and Josh, went through several drafts of their screenplay and assuredly the plot changed with each revision. A little more exposition would have done wonders for Tyrese Gibson. His character seems incomplete, as his performance as a criminal is one-note. We learn little about his life, only that he has a child and what can only be assumed to be a girlfriend or wife. I understand that Leguizamo is the central figure but some background on the instigator of the robbery would have made the movie a more enriching experience.

Still, that’s nothing compared to Adell’s ineptitude about not realizing that Felix survived the robbery. When he gets the news about midway through the feature, and the dumbstruck look in his eye, I just shook my head in an oh-you-got-to-be-kidding-me motion. Okay, you steal bags and bags of money from an armored truck service. You know a federal investigation will follow, so it’s going to make headlines. In the days that followed the heist, Adell should have least heard that there was one survivor in fatal but stable condition. Guess he falls into the category of criminals who don’t read newspapers or watch the news.

With a young director at the helm, Brad Furman, and John Leguizamo as the lead, The Take‘s premise was an intriguing one. We always see crime films glamorizing the act. Rarely do we see the impact it has on the victims. That alone made this a notch above what is essentially a run-of-the-mill urban thriller. Too bad the story, while compelling, falls apart along the way with preposterous story decisions and clichéd ideas. So much for originality.

Shot mostly with handheld cameras, The Take‘s 1.85 anamorphic widescreen presentation is decent enough. Cinematographer Lukas Ettlin does map out some great shots, like the aforementioned scene between Leguizamo and Perez, and some static shots of LA’s Boyle Heights neighborhood. But the color palate is all over the place. Interior sequences have a blue-green tint to them, while daylight scenes appear washed out. The desaturated colors were intentional in a Steven Soderbergh Traffic sort of way, and compared with the handheld work it looked like an overlong episode of The Shield.

The film has an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track as well as an optional Spanish dub in stereo surround. It’s not an overpowering track, as there aren’t many moments where the side and back speakers come into play, say except for the heist and a chase sequence that concludes the film.

The Take, which was an official selection of the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival (who knew?), has a few supplements that you probably won’t visit more than once. Included is an audio commentary with Brad Furman and Lukas Ettlin. Ettlin, who also photographed the film Never Back Down, has some things to say about lighting and how, at times, it worked against him. The intimate scene between Leguizamo and Perez in the bedroom was originally going to be done with all lights. Perez insisted that it be shot in the dark, knowing she was going to appear nude. It was understood, but it was obvious that the scene was shot during the day with drapes blocking out the daylight.

Up next is an eighteen-minute featurette entitled A Look Behind the Scenes of The Take. It’s a standard behind-the-scenes look, with Furman, Ettlin and producer Braxton Pope discussing various aspects about the production. It begins with the pre-production, then branches out and covers the actors (Leguizamo, Perez, Gibson and Bobby Cannavale), the directing and the style of the picture, and the guerilla filmmaking that took place during production. Of the five facets discussed, the best was on the guerilla-style production. Shooting on handheld cameras, sometimes with a skeleton crew of three or four at night, for various scenes there was only a short window of opportunity to complete. Post robbery, the ambulance sequence in the film was shot in the span of 15 to 20 minutes.

Completing the rest of the disc’s extras are four deleted scenes, none of which add anything to the film, and an embarrassing amount of previews: Blu-ray Disc in High Definition promo, Dirty, Redbelt, Cleaner, Untraceable, Hero Wanted, Diamond Dogs, The Tattooist, Impluse, promos for FX’s Damages and Rescue Me on DVD, Pistol Whipped, The Contractor, Edison Force and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.

For a direct-to-DVD release, The Take is one of those movies you hesitate about picking off the video shelf. The cover doesn’t really standout – more like a 10-minute Photoshop job – and the description on the back cover isn’t a true representation of the actual film. At least John Leguizamo gives a good performance in what is an average crime thriller at best.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


Sony Pictures presents The Take. Directed by Brad Furman. Starring John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, Tyrese Gibson and Bobby Cannavale. Written by Josh and Jonas Pate. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated R (for violence, sexual content, language and some drug use). Released on DVD: May 27, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.