Rating: 2.5 out of 5
There is no honour among thieves.
So nobody should be surprised that the central heist plot in Armored, directed by Hungarian-American director Nimrod Antal, is a plan that goes horribly wrong.
Movies like this can be fun when the tension is carefully coaxed to fever-pitch, and the characters are slippery and unpredictable – shifting allegiances and corrupt thoughts in criminal minds are commonplace concepts in this genre.
It would also help if the protagonist, a typically morally conflicted and reluctant participant in the heist, were someone worth rooting for, created by an actor with a strong screen presence.
Most of the aforementioned desired qualities are lacking here, resulting in Armored being nothing more than an aspirational film that is never really able to pay proper homage to its genre.
The story: Ty (Columbus Short, above left, seated) is an armoured vehicle guard whose circumstances are desperate. He is barely able to keep his house in order, his scholastically challenged brother in school and barely brings home enough ‘bacon’ to feed the two of them.
His work involves shifting large quantities of money from the banks. It would be convenient if even a fraction of the millions he transports can somehow be diverted into his own pockets.
There is no temptation, except for extra shift work, until his partner Mike (Matt Dillon) suggests a daring (but not well-thought-out) plan to jack the money on an upcoming assignment.
His partners are a bunch of unsavoury characters played by Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco and Skeet Ulrich, none of whom are as morally torn by the heist.
He asks Mike to promise him that “nobody gets hurt” on this job. Guess what, the plan isn’t more than half an hour into its execution when something goes awry, and the partners-in-crime turn violent.
What little suspense in the story, I shall not ruin by revealing more. I will, however, say that Milo Ventimiglia’s role as a cop who suspects something is fishy is disappointingly underdeveloped, and amounts to little more than a bit part.
And while there is some ingenuity required on the part of Ty to evade his former partners, as he tries to extricate himself from the plot, there’s nothing here of MacGyver-proportions that would be genuinely or ironically remarkable
In terms of visual flair, there is little to write home about here.
In the end, it is more than likely the audience will be glad to be rid of the bad guys, but not all that enthused about what happens to the good guy(s).
Director Antal’s claim to fame, a Hungarian-language box-office hit in Hungary and festival favourite called Kontroll, also featured motley groups of less-than-likeable men – inspectors in the Budapest subway – but possessed a certain dark wit and grim, minimalist style.
His Hollywood transition, first with Vacancy (2007) and now this, hasn’t gone too smoothly. Let’s hope his next assignment, a reboot of the Predator franchise with Fishburne in tow, won’t be another genre picture that doesn’t live up to expectations.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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