Armored Poster

Armored (2009) Review

Armored was directed by Nimrod Antal (Metallica: Through the Never, Control), written by James V. Simpson, and stars Matt Dillon (Bad Country, A Kiss Before Dying), Columbus Short (True to the Game 2, Stomp the Yard), Laurence Fishburne (John Wick 3, Bad Company), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break, Jarhead: Law of Return), Jean Reno (Brothers of the Wind, The Doorman), Skeet Ulrich (Blood, Soul Assassin), Milo Ventimiglia (This is Us, Heroes), Andre Jamal Kinney (Relative Stranger, Santa with Muscles), and Fred Ward (Tremors, Short Cuts). It follows a new security guard as he’s pulled into a scheme by his coworkers to rob two of the trucks they’ve been tasked with protecting.

The Plot: Contrary to the film’s title, Armored is a threadbare affair that certainly attempts to throw in some turns and misdirection but is overall far too familiar to surprise, and far too patchy to hold up to scrutiny.

Recently ending a tour in the Middle East and needing to provide for his brother Jimmy (Kinney), Ty (Short) takes a job in Ashcroft’s (Ward) security company alongside friend Mike (Dillon) in the position of an armored truck guard. Before anything can be investigated or even planned, Mike comes to Ty with an opportunity to steal $42 million from a Federal Reserve deposit with fellow security guards Baines (Fishburne, hamming it up), Palmer (Nolasco), Quinn (Reno), and Dobbs (Ulrich). Already stalling for time, Simpson’s script drags out the scenes of reluctance with nothing to show for it, as the heist is soon underway.

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Just about everything goes right until the crew is spotted by a homeless man who gets put down by Baines for his coincidental placement. This is an artificial conflict at best since the location the crew unloads the trucks at is a “dead zone” where no cameras or cell signals get through, making the action unnecessary. Regardless, this sends Ty into panic mode, locking himself inside the truck with the money for half of Armored’s runtime, with little in the way of development aside from the appearance of unlucky cop Eckehart (Ventimiglia), who soon ends up alongside Ty.

Not a single curveball is thrown, as the barely trying screenplay works through every imaginable cliché until its equally generic ending. It’s efficient enough in its setup, but imminently forgettable all together. Flimsy is a more appropriate title.

The Characters: Relying on the strength of its cast (sans Nolasco and Ventimiglia, as bland of actors as they come) would’ve been fine enough for Armored, but problems arise when the plan goes sideways, with heel-turn attitudes undoing what scant characterization has occurred.

Ty, being an ex-military operator in a movie, is written with all the stock baggage that nearly every other character of the ilk comes with. He has few employment options back home and is currently struggling to provide for Jimmy (a thoroughly unlikeable character who steals from his school and graffiti’s Ty’s house), and questions his actions overseas in his downtime. A potential foreclosure on his house is meant to serve as motivation, but Antal never even shows the place until the letters are mentioned. Ty is only barely developed enough to generate conflict.

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Most of the other guards are interchangeably written, if they were written at all. Mike gets a slight connection to Ty in the form of being his godparent, but the relationship between him and Ty’s family is left untouched. He’s vaguely fatherly, and possibly moral until the script does a 180 with the character midway through the proceedings. The others are one-note fillers, with Baines the reckless loudmouth, Palmer as the religious ex-con, Quinn the reserved veteran, and Dobbs the uncertain flake. Eckehart is equally blank, merely serving his written purpose with nary a trait to be found.

While the characters themselves are remarkably hollow, the actors do their best to differentiate themselves from each other, using personal talent to make up for their limited presence.

The Thrills: Being predictable in the plot department doesn’t mean Armored can’t be engaging when in motion. The choices made to get it there are questionable, but a moderate level of entertainment comes from the dilemma which soon spawns.

Getting the standoff started is a hackneyed job, as Baines shoots the homeless man during the approximately 20 seconds of unintelligible argument over his fate, who Mike shortly finishes off. Little time is given to the conflict, initially at least, as Antal stages a low-speed chase that literally ends exactly where it starts, with the only change being some physical damage to the truck that Ty had been driving. Even Eckhart’s presence doesn’t directly stem from the chase.

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Some life gets pumped into the movie when Simpson’s ticking clock comes into play. Because of their professions, protocol demands that the guards check in periodically to reassure completion. Once the crew starts cracking at the truck, Armored becomes a real-time picture, with 36 minutes devoted to the perps’ increasingly desperate attempts to reach the cash. They start by knocking out the door hinges and before long are trying to burn out their coworker. Loyalty bonuses aren’t going to be common in Ashcroft’s company.

Expectations are met for the remainder of the movie, with escapes attempted, fracturing relationships between the criminals, and increased punitive measures guaranteed thanks to the wounded cop; all executed competently. A minor addition to the routine comes when Jimmy is roped into the fray, but the destination is secure. Eyebrows won’t be raised in surprise, nor will eyelids close in boredom, as a slight genre exercise, there’s a functional appeal here.

The Technics: Every once in a while, there’s a movie that is so plainly competent yet lacking in any sort of distinction that it throttles any real comment or criticism. Armored is one of the best(?) examples of that sentiment.

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While I can’t speak to the merits of his films made in his native Hungarian tongue, Antal’s English language outings haven’t a hint of style about them. Paired with unremarkable camerawork from Andrzej Sekula (The Ritual Killer, Four Rooms), this low-wattage thriller isn’t much to look at; with a budget-conscious setting and premise, only the editing could stimulate visually. Unfortunately, Armen Minasian (Just Cause, Whisper) didn’t have much to work with, though I suppose this isn’t much of a downside when considering the calibre of writing and direction on display.

Streamlined to a fault, the film only runs about 81 minutes long, with another seven for credits. At this time, few of the other areas stand out. The constant clanking and scuffling sound design are adequate enough to present a layer of threat, but the sole characteristic that rises above the range of “subpar” and “eh” is the score by John Murphy (The Suicide Squad, Miami Vice), whose tuned down guitars backed by drums and slight usage of electronic elements work in tandem with the other highlight: the cast.

Predictable, competent, and safe, Armored uses every trope in the book to watchable effect. Because of an agreeable pace and the immensely overqualified cast, the result is a perfect half watch.

Armored is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Platforms via Sony Pictures. ANd if you’re looking for more films like Armored, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.

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