Take It Back!

rex2 1 Take It Back!TAKE
RUNNING TIME 99 minute
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Charles Oliver
STARRING Minnie Driver, Jeremy Renner

Take is another in a meaningless parade of time-wasting marquee cloggers that have been coming at us this summer in sections. Directed and written by Charles Oliver, this bargain-basement crime melodrama about anguish, violence and redemption among the socially marginalized is a kind of Dick and Jane primer of how not to make a movie that will appeal to anyone with an attention span of more than 30 minutes.

Telling parallel stories simultaneously, it starts with Ana (Minnie Driver), a poor housewife with a small son who suffers from learning disabilities. She can’t afford to send him to a private school, so to avoid watching him being sent to a state facility, she packs him up and drives away with their belongings in a U-haul trailer. Meanwhile, Saul (Jeremy Renner) is a lachrymose gambling addict who leaves his miserable job in a highway gas station in search of money to pay off his debts. Ana has a flat tire. Saul robs a storage company and sells the contents of the containers to the highest bidding criminals, while Saul’s father, an old man in a motorized wheel chair, is left alone to pump gas. Ana’s husband, who teaches seventh grade, disappears from the story. But the movie drones on, cutting from Saul in prison garb listening to a preacher talking about “God’s plan,” to Ana, sitting on the side of the road in the boiling heat with a flat tire, her son having vanished from the film entirely. Saul jimmys a stolen car from the wrong person, who turns out to be a psycho with road rage who beats him to a pulp. Ana stares at herself in a filthy toilet mirror, wondering what is going on here, while I stared at my Rolex, wondering the same thing. Take is only a torturous 90-something-minutes long, but it takes what feels like hours to figure out that what you’re watching is not actually happening in real time, and Ana is really on her way to visit Saul on Death Row. Say what?

That’s right, you heard me. Their paths finally cross in a food market where Saul is robbing a cashier, and the child comes out of the bathroom at the wrong time. Saul takes the money and takes the child as a hostage. I guess that’s why it’s called Take. Much violence and death follow. If there’s a point, it’s a plea for support of an unpopular prison reform movement called “restorative justice,” forbidden by most prisons, which encourages victims to come face to face with the maniacs who have destroyed their lives, providing both sides with a chance to make peace with their conscience before execution. Good or bad, it’s a cause that deserves an airing in a much better film than Take. Obscured by ugly, dark photography, a jumbled script, mumbled performances, and clueless direction that make it impossible to see or hear a lot of what’s going on even if you cared, the result is a film of monumental incompetence. Simply dreadful.

rreed@observer.com