Wednesday 8 March 2023

Prime Time: The Take AKA Bastille Day (2016)

If you have seen other films from director James Watkins then you have seen some decent films, particularly if you enjoy horror movies. As of today, The Take is the last film from Watkins, who has moved towards working in TV in the last few years. There may be a good reason for that. The Take (which you may have also seen, or heard of, under the alternate title of Bastille Day) isn’t very good.

Richard Madden plays Michael, a very talented thief, able to work his way through a crowd and dip into pockets to find passports and wallets. Spying an opportunity when he observes Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) crying on some city steps, a bag unattended by her side. Michael lifts the bag, rifles through it, and then ditches it elsewhere. And that’s when it explodes. Zoe was part of a group aiming to cause tension and anarchy, but she was supposed to plant the bomb somewhere without anybody nearby, and the incident now puts a target on Michael’s back, with everyone assuming that he is part of the same terrorist group. The French authorities want to get their hands on him, but Sean Briar (Idris Elba) hopes to get to him first. He is supposed to apprehend Michael and hand him over in due course, but the situation quickly changes as Briar finds himself just as quickly targeted as the man in his custody. 

Elba and Madden can do good work when given the right material, and I will always give time to anything that the former is involved in, but they cannot do enough to make this worthwhile. There are one or two moments here and there, and there’s fun to be had watching Elba commit to fully to such a cliché-ridden role, but they are weighted down by the dire script and poor execution of the material.

Watkins, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Baldwin, isn’t suited to action thrillers. This is a film made by someone who has spent a year watching Taken 3 on repeat and reading “Action Movie Tropes For Dummies”. That’s a shame, particularly when the main premise feels like such a tantalizing one. Almost every opportunity is squandered here, from the tension and thrills that could have been created from Elba trying to pursue Madden to the disappointingly predictable real villains of the movie. The only surprise is how much eyeliner they put on Madden.

As for other cast members, they are equally weighted down by a screenplay that puts a pair of concrete boots on them before throwing them into water. Le Bon is left to look sad and vulnerable, Kelly Reilly is given a role that allows you to say “maybe this won’t be so bad, Kelly Reilly’s in it”, and Thierry Godard at least gets one or two decent moments on the way to an underwhelming finale that once again wastes the opportunity to make things more exciting.

I can imagine that many will be able to enjoy this as undemanding fun. It at least has decent pacing and one or two action beats that should entertain anyone after something familiar and comfortingly simplistic. I didn’t actively hate it while it was on. I just never enjoyed it as much as I wanted to.


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