Saturday, January 21, 2017

Against All Odds Of Set-Up, Take The 10 Is Pretty Good!

The Good: Good performances, Some very funny lines
The Bad: Derivative plot, Generally unlikable characters
The Basics: Take The 10 is a crime comedy that has its moments, even if it is overly familiar at times.

As the Trump Administration begins, the Republicans have once again set their sights on the National Endowment Of The Arts as their "big ticket" budget cut. Sitting down to watch another Netflix Original Film, Take The 10, it seems like the production and distribution for art films is more or less safe in Netflix's hands. Even comparatively poor people end up supporting the arts through Netflix given that their subscription fees help to pay for the billions of dollars Netflix spends to create original content each year, though it's not the socialist ideal of free art for all citizens to help enhance and create a culture, it is better than living in a country without free speech where there is no art being produced.

That said, Take The 10 gets the "indie, support-the-arts" feel by starring two actors who have never been top-billed for a film before. Josh Peck and Tony Revolori, who was probably best known for his role in The Grand Budapest Hotel (reviewed here!), headline Take The 10 and the film has to succeed or fail on their performances, as opposed to their celebrity. And Take The 10 succeeds, when it does, based largely on Revolori's ability to credibly play the everyman in an interesting way. But more than feeling fresh and artistic, Take The 10 feels like a mash-up of Clerks (reviewed here!) and Go (reviewed here!). In fact, even without seeing the film for years, Take The 10 seemed entirely reminiscent of Go.

Opening with Chris and Chester driving along talking about acting and sex scenes when they are shot at, Take The 10 flashes back to earlier in the day. Chester sells his car on Craigslist to Carlo, but has to pick up Chris and go to work before making the sale. While Chris wants to go to a concert, Chester is determined to go to Brazil with the money from the sale of his car. Chester is called into his boss's office where Danny tells his employee he knows Chris and Chester robbed a shipment and sold the product to a competing grocery store. Danny tries to extort Chester and Chester puts him off by promising him the money from the sale of his car. Instead, he makes a plan to flee after the car is sold. Chester meets Carlo and his cousin, who insists on riding in the trunk during their test drive. Carlo has Chester drive the car to a house where he and his cousin shoot up the place. Chester manages to flee by purposely getting into an accident with a rich guy while stuck in traffic on the freeway.

The day restarts with Chris being woken up by his scumbag, scalper brother, Johnny. After swiping some of his brother's fake tickets, Chris barely covers Chester's register (using it to steal cash from the grocery store) before going to try to trade his brother's fake tickets with a legitimate scalper's tickets. Back at work, Danny is tweaking, waiting for Jay (the drug-dealing scalper that Chris is in the process of ripping off) to bring him coke (which Chris has now stolen). Jay arrives, demanding the $3,000 Danny owes him, which puts him in a bind, leading him to steal from the store and sending Chris and Chester on a desperate caper to make enough money to survive the day.

Writer and director Chester Tam has some wonderful lines in Take The 10. Tam also plays Jay and he actually manages to find just the right balance between humor and violence to sell the weird mash-up that has become its own subgenre within the last decade. Never stepping over into the explicitly gory or violent, Take The 10 manages to deliver some very funny lines that act as high-minded non-sequitors to the lowlife characters. While Take The 10 might be derivative of Go (and not just for the jumbled nature of the storytelling for the film), Chester Tam manages to deliver a lot more humor and social commentary than other, similar films.

Take The 10 is led by Josh Peck and Tony Revolori, but features the more well-known actors like Fred Armisen and Andy Samberg in cameo roles. I was pretty psyched to see Emily Kuroda, who was in Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!), and Kevin Corrigan. But Chester Tam is the one who steals all of his scenes. Tam has a great sense of comic timing for delivering his deadpan lines for Jay. Jay is an interestingly conflicted character and Tam does a decent job of making him much more funny than menacing.

What Take The 10 lacks is a consistent spark. Chester and Chris lack the chemistry of, for example, Dante and Randal. Tony Revolori is predictably great and Josh Peck is good as Chris, but the opening scene where they are having a quirky conversation about pop culture is not followed up with similar scenes. As such, the two do not have much of a relationship that is believable. Chief among the character issues with their backstory - why are they actually friends?! - is that Chris talked Chester into a heist and it is unclear why Chester did not use the money from that to buy his coveted trip to Brazil.

Netflix has an unlikely success with Take The 10 in that the balance is funnier and more clever than it originally appears. Take The 10 is short and derivative, but it is fun and its original simplicity is replaced with some nicely clever lines and a film that evolves into something worth watching. And if Netflix is one of the new custodians of art in America and Take The 10 is the the kind of thing viewers can expect from Netflix, perhaps we might all survive the next four years without the NEA.

For other Netflix exclusive films, please check out my reviews of:
True Memoirs Of An International Assassin
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
Special Correspondents
The Fundamentals Of Caring
The Ridiculous 6


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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