One thing you'll probably notice if you watch a lot of festival movies is this: When you dig beneath the big-time, A-list, "gala titles," you come across a lot of medium-sized flicks that come from relative newcomers -- but feature some great work from veteran actors. Renny Harlin's Cleaner is one such example: It's a so-so movie that's probably worth seeing just for the performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Ed Harris. Brad Furman'sThe Take is another one of those flicks: It's got a passably compelling story, a half-decent screenplay, some nifty touches from a young director ... and a lead performance by John Leguizamo that's really quite excellent.
Written by Josh and Jonas Pate (Deceiver), The Take opens by introducing us to a firmly middle-class (but entirely admirable) nobody: Felix De La Pena (Leguizamo) is an armored truck driver who gets kidnapped and shot in the head during a vicious robbery. Against all odds, Felix survives and (with the help of his devoted wife Marina) slowly starts down the road to recovery. But Felix isn't the same man anymore. Although he's still able to walk, talk, drive and otherwise function pretty reasonably, he's also quite a bit "slower" in the head ... plus he's now fostering one nasty little temper. Meanwhile the brutal crook who led the robbery (Tyrese Gibson) is busy tying up a bunch of loose ends -- and you just know the two men are bound to butt heads again. So basically The Take is half a semi-tragic character study about a man who just lost a small chunk of his brain -- and half a slow-burn revenge thriller that follows a very obvious path to a very familiar conclusion. When director Brad Furman focuses more on his 'drama' story, Leguizamo delivers some great work and keeps the story flowing with some intensity. But when the cop procedural / search-for-revenge material pops up, The Take seems as schizophrenic as its main character.
Rosie Perez (as Felix's passionately devoted wife) and Bobby Cannavale (as a suspicious yet good-hearted FBI man) manage to add a lot to the proceedings, but The Take is Leguizmo's show all the way. If my description of the story makes it sound like Felix transforms into a bloodthirsty one-man vigilante, then allow me to clarify: At its best, The Take is a gripping little depiction of a post-traumatic man who desperately wants to remain honest and decent -- but feels compelled (both by anger and by injury) to exact some real justice.
Not all that memorable for much aside from the performances by Leguizamo and Perez, The Take is still a perfectly watchable little character study / crime thriller that doesn't exactly tread any new ground, but it does give us a fairly interesting perspective on an often-told tale. And if you usually dig Leguizamo's work, then you'll definitely want to see this one.