Movie Review: Idris Elba shoots, and sings in “The Take”

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Stick around through the credits of “The Take.” Yeah, that’s Idris Elba, the film’s star, crooning the title tune — “The Road Less Traveled.”

“We’re running the city down,” he growls. And before one runs his movie down, a pause, please, for just how retro and cool that is.

It nicely complements a movie that can boast of a couple of cool scenes  in this Parisian thriller about terrorism, riots and the Paris underworld of pickpockets, immigrants and rogue CIA agents.

Two fun scenes are about picking pockets. In the opener, the old mis-direction play — a hustler (Richard Madden) hires a beautiful woman to walk naked through a crowd of Paris tourists, who turn their attention and cell phones on her and not on the guy pulling their watches, wallets and passports.

Another winning moment, Michael, our American wallet-lifter shows just how much mayhem a pickpocket can create in a bar, when he needs to.

And then there’s a brutal brawl that the guy the French call “The American” (Elba) punches his way out of a French paddy wagon, and the riot cleverly and bravely manipulated into a rescue mission.

Those are the only clever turns in this otherwise generic action script by Andrew Baldwin and director and co-writer James Watkins.

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Elba has the Jason Statham role of “reckless, insubordinate” CIA Agent Briar, hot on the heels of a guy his agency and the French have identified as a terrorist. Michael (Madden) stole a bag that had a bomb in it. Now, he’s being hunted by the real bombers, the French cops and the CIA. He runs the minute he spies Briar.

“YOU were coming after me,” he explains upon being caught. “Have you SEEN yourself?”

Yeah, Elba is a pretty imposing dude, especially when he’s not singing.

Briar has to punch, shoot and head-butt his way through half of Paris in pursuit of the “real” terrorists, who say they’re planning something big for Bastille Day.

Kelly Reilly (“Flight”) is Briar’s immediate superior, the one who turns him loose. Jose Garcia is the French Intelligence chief who seems a step too slow to get to the bottom of all this. Charlotte Le Bon (“The 100 Foot Journey”) is the radical French lass mixed up with bomb throwers.

And Madden (he was Prince Charming in the recent “Cinderella,” and stars in “Medici: Masters of Florence” on TV) is the sidekick “with potential,” the guy who gets the “This is CRAZY. I don’t work for the CIA” lines.

“You do today.”

Elba’s action credentials are well-established, so there’s little for him to prove here. The fights are convincing enough, even if the plot is all coincidence, conspiracy and con jobs.

Connoisseurs of B-pictures will note the similarity to any of a dozen Jason Statham action movies, where more effort is put into fights than into character, dialogue or plot.

Still, there is that bonus, rolling under the closing credits, Elba doing his best Barry White/The Tempations.

But it’s not the city that’s being run down here, it’s the clock on his window for action stardom. He’s not the new Bond, but surely there’s better material out there than this, even with the Paris locations and promising him a singing gig in the credits.

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MPAA Rating:R for violence, language and some nudity

Cast: Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Kelly Reilly, Charlotte LeBon, Jose Garcia

Credits:Directed by James Watkins, script by Andrew Baldwin and James Watkins. A Hightop release.

Running time: 1:32

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