J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Take: Idris Elba Celebrates Bastille Day

It is a thriller built around a phony terrorist conspiracy, but its European openings were complicated twice by very real terrorist attacks. First, the film previously known as Bastille Day was slated for a UK opening in February, but it was pushed back immediately following the November 2015 terror attacks. Later, it logically opened in time for the titular French holiday, but was yanked from theaters less than a week later, because of the Nice terror truck attack. Its timing was terrible, but the on-screen action and intrigue are not bad. As usual, Idris Elba takes care of business in James Watkins’ The Take (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

CIA agent Sean Briar is not afraid to cowboy-up or go rogue. He would probably be out on his ear, if the Paris station chief had not interceded on his behalf. He arrives just in time to do some major damage control when lowlife American expat Michael Mason is caught on CCTV leaving a bomb in Pigalle. Actually, he is just a thief, who didn’t know what he was discarding. He swiped the bag in question from Zoe Naville, the social justice warrior mule, who was supposed to leave it at a Le Pen-esque political party headquarters, before she got cold feet—and robbed. She in turn received the bomb from her activist boyfriend, but he is really a phony planted by a corrupt team of French SWAT commandos.

The plan was to frame various Islamist groups for a terror conspiracy while inciting outrage at their treatment amongst the easily agitated, plunging Paris into chaos hours before the Bastille Day parade. Amid the resulting confusion, they could pull off their planned heist at their leisure. Of course, they did not plan on Briar’s interference.

The Take is not Luther, but it certainly shows why so many have latched onto Idris Elba as a potential James Bond. He is all kinds of hardnosed steeliness, without even trying very hard. It is easy to just sit back and enjoy him doing his thing. We can also readily understand why the distributor wanted to jettison the Bastille Day title and hopefully the bad karma that dogged it. Yet, you almost have to wonder if they are trying to confuse fans of the enjoyably trashy hit Takers.

Regardless, Kelly Reilly and José Garcia add some nice flair and energy as Briar’s boss Karen Dacre and her French counterpart, Victor Gamieux. Charlotte Le Bon is pretty and almost supernaturally wide-eyed as gullible Naville. However, Richard Madden just becomes tiresome as the whiny Mason.


The Take is the rare sort of film that became less politically correct than intended, due the passage of time and unfortunate events beyond Watkins’ control. The way a few hashtags whip up mob frenzy is uncomfortably believable and highly relevant to the current state of the world. Be that as it may, The Take is all about Elba throwing it down, which he does. Recommended for fans of the actor and polyglot Euro action thrillers, The Take opens tomorrow (11/18) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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