Starring: Columbus Short, Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich
Directed by: Nimrod Antal
Written by: James V. Simpson
Runtime: 88 mins
Blu-ray Release: March 16, 2010
You’d have to own a pretty thick skull to miss anything in Armored, a flick featuring what may be the simplest plot I’ve ever encountered. With what I hesitate to call a “star-studded” cast (they’re more recognizable than “stars” per se), Armored follows a group of corrupt armored car drivers intent on stealing millions of dollars in cash. Standing in their way is a goodie-two-shoes war hero determined to set a good example for his troubled younger brother. It’s a straight-forward affair and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – what is bad, however, is the film’s one-dimensional characters, its failure to tread any new ground, and its almost total lack of truly memorable action.
Ty (Columbus Short) is about to start his new job. Back from the front lines of Iraq, he’s a war hero with new battles to fight: preventing his deceased parents’ house from going into foreclosure and keeping his younger brother from flunking out of high school. But there’s hope ahead: the new job, working for an armored car company, promises plenty of stability and a friendly, if prank-prone, group of coworkers, led by family friend Mike (Matt Dillon).
However, it’s not long before Mike and the gang, including Baines (Laurence Fishburne), Quinn (Jean Reno), and Dobbs (Skeet Ulrich) start hinting at a plot that threatens Ty’s dream of a stabile, normal life. Apparently a few years prior some rather bad dudes had successfully disabled one of the company’s cars, tied up its guards, and made off with millions of dollars, never to be seen again. After one or two days of feeling Ty out, Mike drops the bomb: the crew is planning to execute a heist of its own. The plan includes taking $42 million from a single transfer, stashing it in an abandoned warehouse, tying one another up, and then blaming the affair on pretend baddies.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=3783&w=m[/img]Trouble is, it doesn’t appear much thought has gone into the devilish plot. Mike clearly doesn’t know Ty as well as he thinks he does, since the latter immediately recoils at the idea. However, after a visit from the local social worker raises questions about his brother’s grades and the possibility of foreclosure on the house, Ty resigns himself to participate in the scheme – if only to save his parents’ home and his brother from a life of ignorance and abject poverty.
And so, the heist goes ahead as planned. Unfortunately, as the crew is stashing their plunder in the old steel mill, they happen upon a homeless man who witnesses the entire incident. Unprepared for onlookers, the crew argues over how to handle the unlucky gent before Baines and Mike solve the issue with a pair of bullets. For Ty, who had reservations about the scheme from the get-go, the murder is one crime too many. With his conscience tingling, Ty sets fire to the stashed half of the cash and locks himself inside an armored car with the rest. The remainder of the movie follows the crew’s attempt to get into the car at Ty and the money before the authorities arrive.
It’s a simple story and not a terrible idea – certainly, Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs played with a similar formula and encountered much success. Unfortunately, there are some problems here: for one, it’s just too easy for the crew to get as far as it does with that much money – the whole premise is that they must “check in” with headquarters every hour, and thus have one hour to stash the cash and then fake a robbery. Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing that there would be so little contact between HQ and a pair of cars during the transfer of such a heavy load. In addition, there’s mention of cars being fitted with GPS devices – so, how come HQ can’t simply look on a map and figure out that two of its cars shipping $42 million are rather inexplicably parked for what feels like well over an hour in an abandoned warehouse mere feet outside town? Questions like these are hard to ignore.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=3785&w=m[/img]On the flip side, the acting is actually quite robust, even if the characters are all fairly one-dimensional. The film succeeds in building an emotional connection between the viewer and Ty, its main character, but we have absolutely no such link with the movie’s bad guys, including Mike, Baines, Quinn or Dobbs. These guys are just faces in the crowd. Knowing what might have motivated each of them to pull off such a stunt would have helped.
The most disappointing part of Armored, a movie which essentially surrounds armored cars and their drivers, is that there’s almost zero on-road action. I went into this film expecting highway gun fights and bombastic explosions and received exactly none of this.
The video in Armored is satisfactory, but hardly memorable. Most of the movie is set in the dark, dank halls of an abandoned warehouse, offering few awe-inspiring visuals. With that said, the detail on character faces and their environments, no matter how uninspiring, is always razor-sharp. Blacks, thankfully, show an impressive array of nuances. That attention to detail doesn’t prove helpful for everyone involved, however: Laurence Fishburne is looking awful rough these days.
The DTS-HD Master Audio on Armored is a stand-up affair, with the few action scenes driving the subwoofer with deep bass-ey rumbles. Unfortunately, these sequences are few and far between. There’s also a virtual absence of music and the tunes that are here are hardly memorable.
The highlight is a featurette that includes each actor discussing how the main set, that abandoned warehouse, was constructed. I couldn’t help but wonder why they had to build something like this when there must be a hundred abandoned, run-down factories sitting in Michigan right now. There’s also a stunt vignette, but, at 11 minutes, it speaks to the film’s lack of action.
Armored is a throw-back to the B-action flicks of the 80s and 90s. It’s impossible to call Armored offensively bad, since the acting is actually quite reliable, even if the writing and character development is not. With solid visuals and audio, it’s a brainless brute (just barely) worth the rental cost.