Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Quick Look: Armored (2009)

Armored flew under the radar last December, quickly and unsurprisingly pushed there by the annual collection of high-profile holiday releases, which is unfortunate since it’s well worth discovering. It’s essentially a heist movie, following a team of armored truck drivers who plan to fake a hijacking and robbery, hide the money, and then double back later to pick it up and share the wealth. These are blue-collar workers struggling to make ends meet, a demographic often not the center of a Hollywood production, even one as low-profile as this. It’s a great, macho ensemble, starting with our central character, played by Columbus Short. His character is a young bundle of anxiety due to the recent deaths of his parents leaving him with custody of his teenage brother. We follow him, learn to care about him, meet the rest of the ensemble through him. There’s Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich, Amaury Noalsco, and Milo Ventimiglia. They’re all tough, all determined, and yet they have distinct personalities that develop and grow throughout the film. They’re defined as much, if not more, by what they do as what they say.  When the heist doesn’t go according to plan, it turns into a sort of morality play via a ticking-clock thriller. The bulk of the movie takes place in a grim abandoned factory, a setting of inherent danger enhanced by the men’s fear of being caught at any minute. Think of it as 12 Angry Men with the jurors’ lives at stake. The characters are well-drawn; the goals of the plot are clear with a plan that must be executed within certain time constraints. This is a tightly constructed, purely solid suspenseful movie, wasting almost no time at all before plunging the audience into well-staged and bluntly-effective sequences. Directed with considerable skill by Nimr√≥d Antal, from a tight script by James V. Simpson, this is a pleasingly slick, and wholly unpretentious, example of a modern day B-movie aesthetic, with perfectly grimy set design and exciting intensity in the performances. It’s nothing more and nothing less than a fun time at the movies.

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