Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Everything that can go awry in the contrived crime thriller "Armored" (* out of ****)does go awry, but the seasoned, first-class cast, featuring Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Milo Ventimiglia and Lawrence Fishburne, cannot salvage this predictable crime-doesn't-pay potboiler. High-octane action fans will grow restless quickly when the action settles into one confined setting and ridiculous things happen. "Vacancy" director Nimrod Antal and rookie scenarist James V. Simpson must have imagined they had a gritty, surefire, little nail-biter of a suspense saga. Two crews of armored truck guards attempt to pull off the ultimate heist and make off with as much as $42 million in cold cash. Indeed, it sounds potentially intriguing, but the polished product—which benefits visually from “Pulp Fiction” lenser Andrzej Sekula’s cinematography—suffers from far too many flaws. Furthermore, the logistics of "Armored" are not only implausible but also the sketchy one-dimensional, cardboard characters emerge as unsympathetic and idealist.

A shift of Eagle Shield Security guards plans to stash the cash in an abandoned steel plant and make it look like they were carjacked. Clearly, these dudes were delusional from the get-go. The perfect plan masterminded by Mike Cochrane (Matt Dillon of "Old Dogs") so that nobody will get hurt blows up in their faces no sooner than they have stolen the money. Cochrane reminds everybody about a $4-million Eagle Shield heist back in 1988 when the robbers were never found. Cochrane contends that their mistake in ’88 was not stealing enough money. Everybody in the two crews has supported Cochrane from the start. The newbie on the crew--Tyler Hackett (Columbus Short of "Cadillac Records")--is harder for Cochrane to win over to the cause. Hackett is an ex-Iraq war hero with a graffiti artist brother Jimmy (Andre Kinney) to raise and two house mortgages on his back. It seems that Ty's mother and father died the previous year and their mounting medical costs prompted the mortgages. When California Child Welfare Services threatens to take away his younger brother, Ty abandons his deep moral values and joins the crew. Before the heist goes down, we meet a conscientious, young L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Eckehart (Milo Ventimiglia)who patrols the area where the heist occurs.

Initially, in the opening scene, Cochrane and his two crews hazed an unsuspecting Tyler by staging a faux robbery, with Quinn (Jean Reno of “The Professional”) and Dobbs (Skeet Ulrich of “Ride with the Devil”) following the armored truck in a suspicious black van and attaching a fake bomb to the back window. Later that evening, Cochrane assures Ty that they won’t let the bank take Ty’s house. Cochrane pitches the caper to Ty and a flabbergasted Ty turned Cochrane down cold and refuses to let him drive him home. Cochrane pleads for Ty to reconsider his proposition. Just when Ty thinks that the heat is off, he enters his house and finds a California Child Welfare Agent (Lorna Raver of “Drag Me To Hell”) waiting for him. Ty learns to his chagrin that Jimmy has skipped more school days than he has attended. Jimmy argues that he was searching for a job to help with the house payments. The Child Welfare Agent’s hackles rise when she thinks that Jimmy may be have a suitable home environment. She proposes that the state put Jimmy in foster care, but Ty objects strenuously to being separated from his younger brother. After all, his parents entrusted Jimmy to his care. Reluctantly, Ty changes his mind out of expediency. He goes along with the guards. He even helps his accomplices unload the loot, but then something devastating happens that makes Ty change his mind and realize the error of his ways.

Quinn spots a homeless person in the abandoned warehouse that the guards neglected to check before they stashed the Federal Reserve money. After they catch the homeless man, Baines gives in to his violence urges and wounds the man with his shotgun. Originally, Cochrane had promised Ty that nobody would get hurt. Ty tries to save the wounded man, a valiant gesture, and Cochrane finishes the job that Baines started with a second shot. Ty scrambles into the armored truck with the loot still aboard and careens away. Cochrane commandeers the other armored truck and pursues him through the industrial park. Eventually, he crashes into Ty’s armored truck and pins it in a warehouse where everything started. Ty locks himself up and the guards try to get into the vehicle by removing the pins in the door hinges. However, they must beat the pins out while a companion holds a spike on the pin, like drilling holes in rock. The villains are looking at a deadline of less than an hour to pry Ty out of the truck and set things straight. Ty complicates matters when he triggers the siren and a suspicious Eckehart cruises into the industrial park. The deputy confronts Cochrane, and Cochrane almost fools him into believing that nothing is going down when Ty sets out the siren again. Trigger-happy Baines wounds Eckehart with the weapon he used to wound the homeless guy.

Believe it or not, Ty rescues Eckehart from the villains and holes up with him in the armored truck. Now, you're probably wondering how something as improbable as this could happen. Shrewdly, Ty takes a flare and improvises a small explosives device that blows to smithereens the cache of bank bills that the guards stashed before they spotted the homeless man. While the villains are trying to figure out what has transpired with the explosion, Ty hauls the wounded Eckehart into the armored truck. Eckehart will prove to be Ty's salvation at fade-out, but there is no way of knowing what will happen to him and Eckehart. Ventimiglia has little to do for the rest of the action other than writhe in agony on the floor of the armored truck. Cochrane and his men resume trying to remove the pins from the door. Ty plasters the windows of the armored car with bills and manages to open a hole large enough in the floor of the truck to crawl out and try to get a signal using the deputy's radio microphone. This poses a problem. Why didn't the villains, who have spent more time in these armored trucks, not anticipate what Ty might do? Further, why does Cochrane delay until the last minute with a plan that he should have adopted before the robbery: abduct Ty's juvenile delinquent younger brother? The villains in "Armored" are a day late and a dollar short and they don't plan for contingencies.

The lackluster Simpson screenplay is formulaic from fade-in to fade-out and the film concludes abruptly without any closure with regard to the troubled home life of the hero and his juvenile delinquent brother. Worse, most of the action transpires in an abandoned Los Angeles Industrial Park where the armored car crews have holed up, so a sense of claustrophobia sets in long before this downbeat 88-minute fiasco finally fades out. Nothing about "Armored" qualifies as either entertaining or exciting. Indeed, you have to wonder whether the size of the paycheck or the duration of the shooting schedule for this Screen Gems release enticed its stars. Skip this lightweight, PG-13, low body count potboiler.


No comments: