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STUDIO: Sony Pictures / Screen Gems
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
• Producer and Cast Commentary
• Planning the Heist: The Making of Armored
• Crash Course: Stunts
• Armed and Underground: Production Design
A heist picture from the director of Vacancy pits an armored car staffer with a conscience against his fellow staff members over $42 million.
“Look, we’ve all got mortgages, and robbing this sonuvabitch is a lot easier on me than starring in another Old Dogs movie. You wouldn’t understand, man.”
Columbus Short, Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Amaury Nolasco and Milo Ventimiglia
“And the best thing about the Out-Of-Focus Shotgun? It’s verrrrrry hard for your enemies to see.”
Armored follows a pretty standard “heist gone wrong” track from the get-go, which is not to say that it’s unentertaining, but you’ve seen this movie before.
Ty (Columbus Short) is a Iraq War veteran called back from duty to take care of his younger brother (Andre Kinney) after the death of his parents. To support him, Ty takes a job as a security guard for an armored car company — but wouldn’t you know it, times are hard, and the state is breathing down his neck to provide a more suitable environment for his brother or have him whisked away to foster care. (Ain’t that always like the state, always meddling!)
Cochrane (Matt Dillon) is a friend of Ty’s father who got the young man his job — and in conversation, brings up past armored car heists that may or may not have been staged by the guards themselves. With his willing team, Cochrane brings Ty into the loop on a scheme to lift $42 million from a delivery to the Federal Reserve. “No one will be hurt,” Cochrane promises, and with that, Ty reluctantly accepts. Needless to say, things go wrong, people are hurt, and Ty barricades himself inside the armored car with $21 million in a crisis of conscience — with his now very pissed off coworkers looking to shut him up for good. And things get even more complicated when a sheriff’s deputy (Milo Ventimiglia) gets involved.
And I bet you wouldn’t have guessed there’s a chase scene with an animated owl. Tonally, it’s somewhat out of place.
Armored is a B-movie so predictable you could set your watch to it — but hey, sometimes that gets the job done, am I right? Solid if not exceptional, Armored provides enough diversionary thrills for its brief runtime, and while I’d never tell you to go out of your way for it, if it happened to be on the ol’ television (or if a movie Web site sent you a review copy) it’s certainly worth spending a little time with. Even if I say that with certain reservations; it takes almost half the film’s already short runtime to get to the damned heist, and it’s not like we have any emotional attachment to the characters or anything, who are drawn in broad strokes or not at all (I can see no conceivable reason why Jean Reno and Laurence Fishburne, actors whom I had presumed had a bit more clout, would take such insignificant roles in this movie, as I’m not sure Jean Reno has more than three lines in the whole picture).
In spite of the ensemble cast, the film focuses on Short and Dillon, really, so at least it’s nice that Columbus Short delivers, even if Matt Dillon doesn’t really have much to do either except glower when the shit goes down. But I found Short believable and reasonably captivating in the lead role — the actor showed promise as bluesman Little Walter in the underseen Cadillac Records (holding his own with Jeffrey Wright), and continues that promise here, even while the clumsy subplots weigh him down and lead to nothing. It’s a shame that everyone else is underutilized, particularly poor Skeet Ulrich, whose character might as well be called Mr. Guy In the Background of Every Scene Who Becomes An Artificial Device to Raise the Tension For Like Three Minutes.
“Quick, now let’s all huddle around and stare at it to make sure that it’s money! It is, isn’t it? Yep… that’s money, all right. Good to know.”
I’ve spent a lot of time in this review talking about the negatives of Armored, which, believe it or not, is a movie I enjoyed watching even if I feel like it doesn”t deliver the goods in a way that it could have (and those first 40 minutes don’t work, really, because there’s no real development and we know exactly where it’s going anyway). I’ll tell you who the MVP of this particular B-movie is: director Nimrod Antal, whose previous features (2003’s Kontroll, a Hungarian film unseen by me but recommended by some folks I trust, and 2007’s Vacancy, a really effective horror-thriller that works in spite of some last-minute silliness), show a nice eye for composition and a real feel for thrills and suspense. Even when the script (a spec script, I hear, from first-time screenwriter James V. Simpson) lets him down, Antal continually impresses with some nice widescreen compositions and a good sense of pacing. I’m sure that some credit belongs to cinematographer Andrej Sekula, whose work you may recall from Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
Antal could move beyond B-movies if he wanted to (though his next picture, the Robert Rodriguez-guided tentpole sequel Predators, indicates he might not), but I suspect he’s one of those directors, like Neil Marshall or Joe Carnahan, that the B-movie thriller is lucky to have.
15 minutes into the road trip, Columbus Short brought up what he perceived as the “facile and superficial nature” of the race relations themes in Crash. After meeting Matt Dillon’s icy glare, he realized, fuck, it’s going to be a long four hours.
The DVD release of Armored is pretty stacked, as far as these things go. A 15 minute making-of feature may not offer much in terms of the nitty gritty, but it does provide some nice insights from Antal and the screenwriter, even if it’s ultimately a polished EPK sort of thing. A nearly seven minute production design feature describes the creation of the abandoned factory set in which the second half of the film is set. And then there’s an eleven minute feature on stunts, which is an always welcome behind-the-scenes look. I found a lot of the stunt work in Armored to be impressive, so this feature was illuminating, particularly considering a car chase that weaves through the interior and exterior of the factory set was shot in several different locations — and the effect looks seamless.
Rounding out the set is a commentary with producer Dan Farah and cast members Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia. As both actors are peripheral players, I didn’t find this particularly interesting, as their observations were limited to the “I like this scene” or the “That’s a great shot right there” variety.
6.5 out of 10
Yes, Fred Ward is in this movie. No, he’s not mentioned in the review.
That should tell you how little he makes an impression right there — and that’s a damn shame.