Largely ignored when it briefly hit the big screen last year, director Nimród Antal’s action drama Armored gets a second shot at finding an audience with a release on Blu-ray. And considering Antal’s next project is the forthcoming Predators movie, I scrutinised Armored with considerable interest.
Back from Iraq and down on his luck, ex Marine Ty Hackett (Columbus Short) has just completed his training as a security guard, while struggling to make ends meet and keep his younger brother in school. So, when Mike (Matt Dillon) suggests that he and his co-workers steal the $40 million cash stashed in the two armoured cars they command, Hackett reluctantly agrees.
Hiding out in an abandoned steel mill, the gang’s apparently simple plan is to hide the cash and feign a robbery but, unsurprisingly, matters soon go awry. When Baines (Laurence Fishburne) instigates a panicked slaughter of an innocent witness, a horrified Hackett decides to abruptly change allegiance.
One van chase and a crash later, Hackett finds himself locked inside his armoured vehicle with a pile of money and six very angry new enemies outside, all anxious to crash their way in…
Clearly not a big-budget production, Armored is lifted from complete B-movie ignominy by the sharpness of its script (apparently influenced by The Treasure Of Sierra Madre in places) and the quality of its ensemble cast, which includes the acting muscle of Jean Reno, as well as the previously mentioned Fishburne who, while rarely given much to do, add a welcome and weighty presence. Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia also makes an appearance, though his role often amounts to little more than lying around on the floor of a van.
It’s Columbus Short who provides the film with its emotional core as the conflicted, beleaguered ex soldier who’s just trying to do the right thing, and his prowess both as an actor and action hero also lift the film out of the ordinary.
Nimrd Antal’s direction is economical and well framed, with the occasional visual flourish that marks him out as more than just another Hollywood hack for hire.
Armored‘s drama may be modest in scale (you’re essentially watching a crowd of men shout and bang at the doors of a stationary vehicle for about an hour), but the film’s pacing and brief running time make it an entertaining, if inconsequential piece of entertainment.
It’s also one of the few movies in recent years to feature an almost entirely male cast, with the brief appearance of a child protection worker representing the only female figure in an otherwise thoroughly testosterone dominated movie.
The premise is also unusual, if nothing else. A film set in the world of armoured car companies is certainly rare, even if certain scenes within it drift perilously into the realms of cliché. (How many action and suspense movies have contained a suspicious cop who’s convinced he’s heard something? Too many to count.)
Nevertheless, this is a film far from the kind of Jean-Claude Van Damme-influenced trashy entertainment I was expecting, with Armored providing a surprisingly intelligent meditation on poverty and greed, and how desperate men can find justifications for increasingly amoral actions. Most importantly, there are just enough crashes and bangs to keep action fans happy too.
I await Antal’s Predators with quiet yet hopeful anticipation.
Armored’s Blu-ray release shows off Nimród Antal’s direction and Andrzej Sekula ‘s cinematography in a great light. You can see every grimy detail in the film’s steel mill locations (which I was surprised to find out were actually created on a sound stage), plus every line and pockmark on Laurence Fishburne’s distinctive saturnine face.
Both picture and sound quality are excellent, and give the distinct impression that Antal’s team has put more effort into Armored‘s production than is typically seen in a small scale action movie.
In terms of extras, the disc contains three brief making-of documentaries which detail the planning, stunts and production design, which in total amount to a little more than thirty minutes of additional material. There’s also an entertaining, anecdote-laced commentary from producer Dan Farah and actors Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia.
Armored is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.