Armored review (Blu-ray)

Antal’s 2003 film Kontroll had a strong '80s flavour; an unusual setting, broadly-delineated characters with little background, and an emphasis on entertaining action. He revisits the decade with Armored, presenting an ensemble of easy-to-remember characters in a heist-gone-wrong scenario, replete with plenty of shouting, shooting, industrial decay and machismo.

Unfortunately Armored also features some of the more hackneyed elements of the ‘80s action flick, such as clunky dialogue and, notably, an unnecessarily dramatic, pounding soundtrack. The first few scenes certainly stirred some affection in this 38-year-old reviewer, as The Guys head to work at Eagle Shield security, then kit up and roll out in their big boxy armo(u)red trucks, accompanied by John Murphy’s portentous music. After the beefed-up intro, the first cash pick-up holds some promise; in a brief break from the music, a few simple shots (particularly one of Cochrane (Dillon) walking through a working bank with his gun out of its holster) convey the tension and potential danger of the job. But we’re soon back in Tony Scott territory as a mysterious black van shows a bit too much interest in Eagle Shield’s activities.

It’s to the film’s credit that the plot unfolds quickly, and little time is wasted before the action commences. Cochrane has a plan to fake a hijack of his own two-truck unit, and take the $42 million cargo. The other guards – cool Quinn (Reno), flaky Dobbs (Ulrich), nutter Baines (Fishburne) and born-again ex-con Palmer (Nolasco) – are on board, but he has yet to convince newbie Hackett (Short). Hackett is the hero of the piece, a young war veteran burdened with two mortgages and the care of his 14-year old brother Jimmy (Kinney). Under threats of foreclosure, and with child welfare questioning his fitness as a guardian, he signs up pretty quickly. “There are no bad guys,” promises Cochrane, and we’re off. The heist begins smoothly, but things go awry before long, and the shooting and shouting commence.

Armored’s US certificate is PG-13. The film may well have been designed for teenage boys; it certainly doesn’t credit its audience with much intelligence. In a simple example of character establishment, Baines shows off his new matt black shotgun; Hackett comments that he may be overcompensating – a reasonable little bit of locker room banter. Unfortunately, he then has to explain the joke, to the whoops and high-fives of his colleagues. Every event is flagged, sometimes by the score; there are no surprises. Although it shares much more with Reservoir Dogs than just director of photography Andrzej Sekula (ensemble cast, heist-gone-wrong, a lone cop in trouble etc) Armored has some original touches.

Much of the film takes place in a vast abandoned steelworks; the adjacent power station denies radio signals, and layers of entrapment are added – a warehouse within the steelworks, a sealed truck within the warehouse. Antal directs action scenes effectively, eschewing Michael Bay’s frantic cutting and letting us see what’s going on. Within the confines of the script and certification, the cast performs well, particularly Dillon as the conflicted Cochrane and Ulrich as vulnerable Dobbs. Overall, Armored is a decent, straightforward (if unremarkable) action film.

EXTRAS ★★★ There's an audio commentary with producer Dan Farah, and costars Ulrich and Ventimiglia; a 15-minute making-of featurette, called Planning the Heist; a six-minute featurette on the production design, called Armed and Dangerous; an 11-minute featurette on the stunts, called Crash Course; trailers for other Sony Blu-ray releases.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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