Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is an American abroad in France, Paris to be exact, where he is making a bit of money for himself - a bit of someone else's money as he is a professional pickpocket and tonight, two days before Bastille Day, he has staged a stunt where a naked woman (Stéphane Caillard) walks down the stairs at the Place Vendôme causing enough of a distraction that Mason can help himself to wallets, phones and watches without being caught. Or at least that's what he thinks until he is in the Metro and is about to board a carriage with the woman when he notices the cops getting on too, and leaves her in the lurch. But his cavalier attitude to others' property is about to backfire - and CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) is on his trail.
That was not all that backfired in this film, which saw its release delayed thanks to the Christmas terrorist attacks in Paris, then when it was put out closer to Bastille Day itself, another atrocity occurred which saw its cinematic excursion swiftly curtailed, and all advertising pulled. When it re-emerged for the home market, it had been hastily (and vaguely) renamed The Take and any mention of the attacks was left unreferred to, even though by then they would be uppermost in the viewer's mind as they tried to discern any connection between real life and fiction. The main one was, prophetically, an attack on France's day of independence, which did indeed strike too close for comfort.
All that said, there had to be qualified responses, and the main one was that the terrorists in the movie were not Islamic extremists as they had been in reality, but some dodgy authority figures pretending to be them as they had plans for a large amount of money hidden away in a high security bank vault. To ensure they got their mitts on it, they were staging a protest that would, in their scheming, turn into a riot on the big day, rather than aim to kill a large amount of people to make a point about... whatever point Islamic terrorists were trying to make. For some audiences this was a step too far, as the perpetrators of such dreadful events were not, as it was plain to see, part of a high concept French conspiracy.
But perhaps if there had been no attacks then the film would have been regarded as the lightweight action flick it was, more a showcase for the charms of Elba here apparently attempting to prove he could have been a great James Bond, but in fact proving the opposite as he put on an American accent and ditched any moves towards suavity. Not to say he couldn't have done something with the role, just not this, as there was a theme about overreaction to any criminal element by the law, be that genuine or mistakenly perceived, that would never have gone down well in a 007 instalment, however well it operated within the parameters of a paranoid thriller for the early twenty-first century. Indeed, the plot hinged on an example of fake police brutality to set off the protests, as nobody could tell the difference between the real thing and the staged one.
You could have noted there was a satirical aspect to the narrative that was largely neglected here, something about few caring about actual news and the fake variety (very current), but it was merely implemented as a means to get Briar teaming up with the falsely accused Mason and setting off to combat the bad guys. They were joined by the villains' stooge, Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon), who was supposed to leave a bomb in an empty office block till she realised there were innocent cleaners there and aborted her mission, about to throw the explosive in the Seine when Mason nicks the bag that contains it and shortly after throws it away himself - at a Metro station, where it explodes and kills bystanders. The film tended to make light of this character, but the fact remained people died because of his habitual lawbreaking, which made it difficult to warm to him, and equally towards Briar getting heavy-handed as the American agent who refuses to work with the French at all, ignoring the fact that sharing intelligence could have saved a lot of trouble. Despite these not thought through plot developments, the action was well presented by director James Watkins, and if you didn't think about it you might enjoy this; real life did tend to intrude, though. Music by Alex Heffes, with Elba doing a Dennis Waterman on the theme tune.