EIFF 2016: Take Down Review


After crashing his car and leaving a female passenger for dead, forcing his father’s lawyers into overdrive as they seek to safeguard an important business deal, Kyle Hartmann (Jeremy Sumpter) is offered an ultimatum: spend three months at an unorthodox rehab centre in the Scottish isles and learn some self-respect or serve a full sentence for DUI and risk being legally disowned. Opting for the former, Kyle is shipped off to boot camp, where he is reunited with Amy (Phoebe Tonkin), the girl from the crash, along with a ragtag group of similarly privileged rich kids from around the world. When a team of mercenaries storm the island in search of hostages, Kyle has to decide whether he wants to keep running or stop and finally take some responsibility for his actions.

Set in Scotland but shot on the Isle of Man, Jim Gillespie’s Take Down — or Billionaire Ransom, depending on which territory you’re watching it in — brings a relatively obscure cast to one of the smallest corners of the British isles. Nevertheless, the dynamic ensemble and dramatic scenery make a sizable impact, with both conspiring to create a credible and compelling teen movie. Still best known for starring in P. J. Hogan’s 2003 adaptation of Peter Pan, Sumpter brings new shades of arrogance and recklessness to another character who refuses to grow up, while still managing to make Kyle’s delayed maturation accessible and sympathetic. Tonkin’s great value too, such that her reappearance in the second act is entirely welcome if extremely contrived.

Take Down also marks something of a comeback for Gillespie, the director who made his name with 90s slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer and Sylvester Stallone vehicle D-Tox. Neither film was a classic, of course, but they each became iconic in their own way by tapping into the zeitgeist and entering the public consciousness. Take Down may be more efficient than his previous films — it’s better directed, and certainly better acted than either — but it isn’t nearly as effective, coming across as strangely anonymous and restrained. That’s not to suggest that the film doesn’t have its moments — the scene in which one character takes a fractured bone to the jugular of another sees to that — only that it does very little to distinguish itself from other such films. It doesn’t have much of an identity.

This is at least in part due to the fact that the film’s action quotient is relatively small and short-lived. For a movie called Take Down there is very little violence to be had, with Ed Westwick’s mercenaries reluctant to harm their gilded hostages and the teens secure in the knowledge that their parents will pay the ransom. As such, audiences must wait for Kyle, who has once again fled the scene, to stop running and face his problems before anything particularly thrilling can happen. Even then, there isn’t much in the way of threat or even conflict, with only small bursts of activity to keep things moving along and an unengaging subplot involving the group’s parents always threatening to kill the momentum. The fact that one character dies as a result of falling on a sharp stick goes some way towards demonstrating just how incidental and unsatisfying the action is when it comes. It isn’t exactly The Hunger Games.

More functional than fun, Take Down is so preoccupied with meeting expectations that it stands little chance of exceeding them. You’ll be struggling to remember what happened next week, let alone next summer.


Take Down
Previous articleBreaking Down Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 9 – “Battle of the Bastards”
Next articleEIFF 2016: Slash Review
A big fan of adventure both on the big screen and off, I split my time between writing film reviews and updating my travel blog. Glasgow and Edinburgh Film Festivals provide me with the perfect opportunity to do both, sating my popcorn addiction while permitting me to travel the world one film at a time.
take-down-reviewMore functional than fun, Take Down is so preoccupied with meeting expectations that it stands little chance of exceeding them