Drawing on clear influences from recent gritty, crime infused pieces such as 2000's Traffic and 2002's Narc, 2008 film The Take seems to have come and gone at a Canadian film festival before being banished to stores so as to increase profits on DVDs. It would seem there was nary a distributer at said Canadian festival willing to invest in Brad Furman's film; an overall shame, not a crying one but a shame none-the-less. The Take squeezes an amount of substance to do with male machismo; the tearing apart of a family unit; the sub-genre of the vigilante movie and the dealing of the aftermath of a heist plus all the crime drama conventions of mistrust between gangsters: honour amongst thieves, if you will, into 96 minutes. However, all too often these ideas jostle uncomfortably with one another – a persistent vying for power, a struggle between genres and sub-genres; content and study. This renders The Take less interesting than it might have been, but good enough to see in order to observe a moderately interesting, well acted independent American drama.
I think the film thinks it's more powerful and more affecting than it is in actualité. The tale is of a righteous man wronged, and the subsequent fall out it has on both his life and the lives of those around him. But for all the substance, for all the promise and for all the content; to have The Take boil down to a chase sequence on foot that, again, certainly thinks it has more of a sense of drama involved than it actually does, was just a mite disappointing and anti-climatic. Furman likes his visual tricks and gimmicks, with someone somewhere failing to realise that spectacle and visualness ought to have been secondary to this screenplay's agenda as gritty, Hispanic-American living conditions; seams in a family becoming unravelled; a man loosing his mind and sense of masculinity plus brutal shootings during a heist sequence were the order of the day. Furman tells the story with every trick in the book: the visual flair ingredient to the editing and camera work; the speeding up of footage; transitions and the hand-held camera technique on top of a number of scenes set in rooms that are close to all being entirely blacked out for sake of mood.
John Leguizamo plays the role of Felix De La Pena, a man of Hispanic descent living with his wife Marina (Perez) and their two kids in Los Angeles. De La Pena is a nice, upstanding man with a great deal of fondness for his family and the work he does. His large friend-base plus the fact his job sees him adopt a certain role of honour and trust in driving an armoured truck instills a sense of responsibility on top of the other positive conventions. But one day, things go spectacularly wrong when Tyrese Gibson's criminal Adell holds up the truck; has De La Pena drive it back to the HQ before robbing the place of its money and fatally wounding De La Pena. We've seen people shot following heists in films many-a time before, usually hard-bodied; no nonsense criminals in hard boiled neo-noirs, but they'd always get back up again after a brief lay off and plough on ahead, seeking money and revenge. The Take's sequence of wounding feels grainer than usual, De La Pena's pained reaction to his injuries are stark and cutting in ways that I've rarely felt a gunshot wound in a film before. The injury feels more painful than usual because of the film's delicate buildup of the victim: a well mannered; rather slim, though not necessarily 'weak', and supremely upstanding character in De La Pena. From here, a process of recovery for both the mind, body and soul begins as FBI agent Steve Perelli (Cannavale) hunts the wrong-doers.
It's here the film beds down for a long stretch of content similar to one another. De La Pena's sense of self vanishes and he gets a lot angrier a lot more often than usual, with Leguizamo really rather brilliantly portraying this new character: this fresher, more frothing at the mouth person. He installs security equipment in a fit of paranoia and undergoes a process of long recovery that sees him sense a once-present notion of 'manliness' now gone. Subsequently, he cannot make love to his wife; gets agitated as a result and seems to maintain this odd sense of being unable to really 'feel', as if to cry or get upset at the shooting is to fatally expel a sense of male machismo, with an ideology that might read something like: 'men don't cry - men get over this sort of thing'.
I wrote a while ago in an observation on a Finnish film from 2006 entitled Lights in the Dusk about the film's over-emphasising on the 'little-guy' in a big situation. In said film, a hapless turnkey is rendered fall guy so a gang of thieves can swipe some diamonds his job it is to contain. I cited 2001's sprawling and maddening heist flick 3000 Miles to Graceland, in which during a heist sequence at a casino, countless numbers of body guards and members of law enforcement are dispatched like the many nameless, faceless bad guys that pop up at you in certain video games, each one of them as fatally injured as the next. The Take, like said Finnish film, rejects the generic notion to follow those perpetrating the heist and instead opts for an unbeaten route down into the gloomy undergrowth of a victim of the shooting recovering. Needless to say, a lot of people that were shot in 3000 Miles to Graceland would've gone through what De La Pena goes through here – it's when these sorts of films dry up that we know we're in trouble. I notice that at the present time, The Take has a lower IMDb rating than 3000 Miles to Graceland: good grief!