DVD Review: Armored (2009)

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Anyone who's seen enough movies can tell you that the guy holding up the bank always gets his free pizza but he isn't going to get away in that chopper he's requested. And the reason we hear the phrase “crime doesn't pay,” so often is because it's true.

When was the last time you ever heard a new story about a scoundrel getting away with millions who wasn't caught?-- all crooked CEOs aside.

Yet in addition to knowing crime doesn't pay, the other thing that movie lovers are sure of is that no plan whether it's A Simple Plan or a perfect one is foolproof and if something sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is the case.

An offshoot of Film Noir, heist movies follow a very unique pattern and one that's usually much different than the largely solitary bank robbery genre since it seems like it's the goal of the bank robber (at least in cinema) to hold people hostage or try to avoid dye-packs of cash spraying them neon green the way a skunk sprays a victim.

This is in stark contrast to heist movies, which-- few exceptions aside-- are traditionally far less cowboy in feel, more methodical, and usually deal with “a bunch of guys sitting around talking” whether it's when they're working out the details of the score or figuring out what inevitably went wrong after it went down.

If you're lucky enough to have avoided the trailer that tells the entire story of the 88 minute Armored in two minutes flat, you get the sense that debut screenwriter and Nicholl Award finalist James V. Simpson has not only seen a lot of heist movies but that he also really wanted to make this contemporary film feel both classic in approach and also modern in its unusual set-up.

Needless to say, it's an ambitious script for a newcomer. And while the predictability and flaws do begin to screech the film to a halt as soon as we get stuck in the same warehouse for more than twenty minutes minus the dialogue of Tarantino, Simpson gets bonus points for choosing the traditional heist movie good guys to be his bad guys in the sense that those knocking over two armored trucks aren't Reservoir Dogs or guys from The Asphalt Jungle ready to make a Killing but the drivers themselves.

After startling us by initiating the probationary new guy Ty, an Iraq war veteran who returned to debt, the death of his parents, and guardianship of his teenage brother, the men who work at the Eagle Shield Security armored truck company get together and swap stories over billiards and beers, ratcheting up more old wives (or trucker) tales about guys who survived hijackings and guys who didn't.

Preaching the importance of the brotherhood and always sticking together, Ty's own godfather and coworker, Chief Officer Michael Cochrane (Matt Dillon) stuns the economically frazzled younger man by telling him that he and the other four members of two truck teams will be staging a fake heist and splitting the money six ways the following day.

Assuring Ty that the plan is so carefully thought out in coinciding with one of the biggest hauls they drive around in any given year and one week before the trucks get hooked up with mandatory GPS systems that no one will get hurt, Ty is left reeling, knowing robbery is the last thing he wants to do but also knowing it may be his only way to save his parents' house and kid brother from foster care.

Reluctantly going along with the veteran drivers including Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno and others, when predictably things go wrong and bullets begin firing, Ty must decide just how far he's willing to go and who, if any of the five guys he can trust to end the escalation of violence before more people on both sides wind up dead.

A taut, briskly paced thriller that benefits from its relatively short running time, while it's easy to predict precisely what's going to happen in terms of a few key characters, the on and off like a light-switch charm and madness of Dillon and sheer likability of our lead Columbus Short help make this admittedly B-level movie work well enough as a rainy Saturday afternoon time waster.

Not requiring nearly as many brain cells as most vintage heist movies and one that spends so much time dealing exclusively with guys turning on each other in the warehouse that we do feel that maybe we should be watching Reservoir Dogs instead.

And while it isn't as unique as another recent armored truck film The Take with John Leguizamo, thanks to the ability of Vacancy director Nimrod Antal to consistently deliver on the near real-time intensity of the middle act by making you wonder just what you would do if you were trapped by your colleagues as well, Armored is kept safe from the vault of total obscurity.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.