Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Released Tuesday on DVD: "Armored"


Grade: C-plus

It took a while for someone to finally make a variation on Reservoir Dogs, and as that, Armored actually finds a way to work some nail-biting tension into the proceedings. It isn't bulletproof by a long shot, but director Nimrod Antal's grungy gang-of-thieves film is tough and, for this genre, surprisingly ethical.

Matt Dillon is Cochrone, the leader of six security guards entrusted with transporting huge amounts of cash from banks. As a new member, Hackett (Columbus Short), joins them. Cochrane tells tales of hijacking jobs gone bad. The big mistake, he seems to think, is that the guys doing the hijacking didn't think big enough.

So Cochrane comes up with a plan to take the payloads from the trucks during one especially high-dollar-sign transport run. He needs all six guys on board, though - and when Hackett objects to the ruthless measures taken when he was promised there'd be no victims, he tries to opt out.

But his fellow guards stop him, and Hackett finds himself locked inside one of the armored trucks with only a short amount of time to go before Cochrane, Baines (a weighty Laurence Fishburne), and the others find a way to get inside the impenetrable vehicle and stop Hackett from telling the cops.

Antal (whose previous films Vacancy and Kontroll earned him a cult following) has a nice sense of the claustrophobic, and he and cinematographer Andrzej Sekula (who also shot American Psycho) give industrialized, broken-down urban areas a shadowy, gun-metal-blue tinge (the places these scruffy guards, each of them bearded or five-o'clock-shadowed, hang is out is nowhere you'd want to be). As Hackett is closed in on - first in an abandoned factory, then an armored truck and finally by his former comrades - things get more and more tense. The arrival of a wounded cop (Heroes costar Milo Ventimiglia) only ups the stakes.

Unfortunately, most of the acting is of the grunt-shrug-and-bark variety (Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich and Amaury Nolasco round out this wild bunch), and there's even a gruff captain (Fred Ward) who gives Hill Street Blues-like admonitions to be careful out there. But the actors, drowning in testosterone and adrenaline, have themselves a real time, and Hackett is a kind of guy not found often in gritty action thrillers. Trying to keep the house he and his younger brother live in, Hackett rejects the lure of ill-gotten gains and quietly, unassumingly stays true to his own moral compass. And Armored has the guts to reward the character for it, payback essentially for his rejecting the wages of fear.

No comments: