A raw, hard-hitting drama from one-time music video director Brad Furman, The Take is a provocative story about a violent hijacking and its aftermath, as a man’s life is irrevocably changed when he becomes the unfortunate pawn in a brutal heist.

Set on the streets of the Hispanic neighbourhood of Doyle Heights in LA, the film depicts the hijacking of an armoured car by a group of mercenaries who shoot all the witnesses and leave the driver, Felix de la Peña (John Leguizamo), for dead. When he recovers from the resulting coma, he is left with damage to the right frontal lobe of his brain and dramatic changes to his personality, which leave him prone to violent mood swings. To cap it all, he has been framed for the crime by the real hijackers and has become the chief suspect for the investigating detectives, who seem convinced the hijacking was an inside job. In the face of this traumatic injustice Felix becomes isolated from his family and is forced to go in search of the real criminals himself.

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So far, so predictable. But the revenge plot is not what the director is primarily interested in here, as he shifts the focus towards the psychological impact of the trauma upon Felix and his family, as well as concerning himself with questions about the nature of justice in a gun-toting society in which everyone is a potential vigilante.

The film’s early sequences outline the life of the de la Peña family and take us through the harrowing experience of the hijacking, but the majority of the film deals with the aftermath and the consequences for Felix and his family. It is here that the leads truly come into their own as Leguizamo dismisses any doubts about his credentials in a serious role. He gives a convincing performance as the traumatised, increasingly desperate Felix, distanced from the family he once held so dear and obsessed by thoughts of revenge and desire for vigilante justice. Likewise, Rosie Perez offers an impressive performance as his loving wife Marina, forced to come to terms with the dramatic transformation of Felix’s personality and divided between a desire to support her husband in his hour of need and a fear for the safety of her children in the face of Felix’s growing violence and monomania.

Tyrese Gibson looks suitably menacing as the merciless Adell (leader of the hijackers), but his character is underdeveloped, and lacks any real emotional or psychological depth. He feels more like a plot device than a central protagonist and the same can be said of the two detectives, whose willingness to believe that Felix is an insider to the crime renders them stereotypical representatives of an outmoded justice system rather than believable individuals. It’s true that Perelli (Bobby Cannavale) is more willing to give Felix the benefit of the doubt, but even he seems unable to grasp the possibility that Felix has been set-up, which is a little predictable for anyone versed in the mechanics of the revenge thriller.

Set in a decidedly unforgiving district of LA, in which guns and violence are presented as commonplace, the film centres around the theme of justice, pitting the conventional forces of law and order against the threat of vigilante justice in a world where anyone can acquire a weapon. Furman’s handling of this issue is suitably ambiguous as he appears to condemn both sides. The detectives are criticised for their lack of insight and hasty judgement against Felix, but equally, Felix himself is condemned for his descent into the monomania of revenge. At one point Felix opens a bible in which a flier bears the message, “God helps those who help themselves” and while the film’s climax certainly doesn’t offer unqualified support for this mantra, nor does it unambiguously condemn the vigilante approach.

Anyone hoping for innovative thrills and spills or devious plot twists from this crime drama may be disappointed by a plot which offers nothing that we haven’t seen before in terms of twists or action sequences. However, the film never stakes a claim to recreate the vigilante heroics of the great revenge thrillers or the martial arts films, which Felix’s everyman watches with envy and frustration. It is more concerned with an attempt to achieve credibility and naturalistic verisimilitude by exploring the emotional and psychological consequences of the trauma for the survivor and his family. Furman’s carefully stylised direction never feels intrusive and his widespread use of the handicam helps to create a cinéma verité feel to the film, while also adding to the atmosphere of panic and the increasing loss of control which characterise Felix’s state of mind.

Overall, this first full-length offering from director Brad Furman is an intimate, provocative and well-acted drama which deserves to bring him more opportunities to showcase his talents in the future.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2008
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An isolated victim of a hijacking sets out for vengeance against his attackers.
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Director: Brad Furman

Writer: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Starring: John Leguizamo, Tyrese Gibson, Rosie Perez, Bobby Cannavale, Matthew Hatchette, Yul Vazquez, Carlos Sanz, Jake Muxworthy, Laurence Mason, Roger Guenveur Smith, Jessica Steinbaum

Year: 2007

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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