"Takers," "Mademoiselle Chambon," "Centurion"
★★★ out of four stars • Rating: PG-13: Language, violence, sexual situations, adult themes.
Everything in this crackling crime drama is borrowed from other pictures, from the suave, resourceful bank robbers who execute perfect crimes to the pair of dogged officers hell-bent on nabbing them. But the familiarity of the material is overcome by stylish, unobtrusive direction by John Luessenhop, who keeps the visuals vibrant and flashy without resorting to assaultive overkill, and an eclectic ensemble cast that includes Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and Chris Brown as the slick thieves and Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez as the cops. The film feels fresh and invigorating, with a hotel suite shootout that outguns the climactic standoff in "True Romance." And the plot does manage to come up with a couple of curve balls, most notably the ending. "Takers" is far from essential, but it goes down smooth and easy -- a tall, refreshing, ice-cool chaser to a long, mostly dry summer movie season.
RENE RODRIGUEZ, MIAMI HERALD
★★ 1/2 out of four stars • Not rated • Theater: St. Anthony MainThough it's the furthest thing from a thriller, director Stéphane Brizé's choked-up French melodrama gives a "Fatal Attraction"-type twist to its love triangle -- that is, the philanderer's unsuspecting wife is smart, sweet, pretty and not at all deserving of betrayal. Nevertheless, men will wander, so lumberjack-like construction worker Jean (Vincent Lindon) lets his heart yank him into an emotional affair with his young son's classy violin-playing teacher, Véronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain). The characters' mores are neo-Victorian, but Brize's style is rarely subtle. We know, for instance, that Mlle. Chambon has a thing for Jean because the camera zooms in slowly on her face while he's talking. Playing badminton with the kid, Jean's wife (Aure Atika) urges, "No more fooling around" -- which of course goes double for her hubby. Amid such schematics, Brizé does score a nifty variation on the clichéd rushing-to-meet-destiny climax. But this encounter, brief indeed at a mere 90 minutes, doesn't fully convince.
★★★ out of four stars • Rated: R for violence and language • Theater: Lagoon
Rare among action flicks of any scale, the cut-rate "Centurion" finds British B-movie master Neil Marshall ("The Descent") humanizing both sides in the absurdly ultraviolent war between Pict tribesmen and Roman gladiators circa 117 A.D. Stuffed to the gills with gnarly decapitations and other grotesque savagery, the film rivals even Alexandre Aja's killer-fish opus "Piranha" for wanton gore. Indeed, such is the genre-loving camp quotient here that one half-expects werewolves to start howling from within the fog-enshrouded woods. The actors (including Michael Fassbender and Dominic West) are wonderfully macho, but hardly huge stars, meaning that anyone can die whenever -- and, whoever it is, he generally does. Particularly lovable (and likely doomed) are a mess hall cook-turned-soldier-turned-outward-bound butcher(!), and our sword-swingin' hero, who unsurprisingly happens upon a sexy young lass. (Um ... will they or won't they?) Inevitably, Marshall's Roman wild bunch takes its wicked last stand, allowing the auteur to cast a sideways glance at, of all things, Kubrick's classic "Paths of Glory." Bloody well done.