An unlikely but entertaining amalgam of “Heat,” “Memento” and “Regarding Henry,” Brad Furman’s streetwise caper drama “The Take” is elevated by the potent performances of John Leguizamo and Rosie Perez and a momentum that seldom stops. Yes, there are a few distracting, too-clever instances of ambitious editing and unnecessary stylizing. But film should encounter solid critical and popular response.
In one of the stronger showings of his career, Leguizamo is Felix Delgado, a hardworking family man whose routine life as an armored-car guard is sent crashing after he’s abducted and shot in the head. His memory damaged, Felix spends much of the film trying to reconstruct the robbery that left his co-workers dead, while a sympathetic FBI agent (a terrific Bobby Cannavale) tries not to arrest him, despite the fact that every lead points to Felix.
Leguizamo avoids any sticky “Rain Man” affectations; the key manifestation of Felix’s injury is anger, born of frustration and vented on those around him. It seems an accurate depiction of a head trauma victim, and Leguizamo manages to make Felix’s struggles convincing even as he investigates the murderous hijacking, bugs his own house, writes himself notes and tries to get out from under the accusations piling up on him.
Perez has some very effecting scenes as Felix’ wife, Marina — it’s when she gets fed up, scared and leaves with the kids that Felix turns into an avenging brain-damaged angel and gets into payback mode, storming across the city, looking for the thug who ruined his life.
Production values are tops, and Lukas Ettlin’s athletic camerawork — coursing through the streets of Boyle Heights and other Los Angeles locations — adds a kinetic element to a film that is half thriller, half psychodrama: As Felix struggles with his damaged brain, he is himself closing in on his would-be killer, a homicidal maniac named Adell (Tyrese Gibson). What Adell knows, and Felix doesn’t, makes “The Take” an often scary proposition, and several sizable steps beyond the expectations auds will have of similar revenge tales or melodramas in the ‘hood.