Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 02/15/10 12:58:10

"Lean portion, Mean punch!"
3 stars (Average)

There’s a certain joy in a well-made run-of-the-mill genre film. Like simple home-cooked food, it has a nice familiarity to it. It doesn’t try to overwhelm you with its ambitions because it doesn’t have any. Nimród Antal’s heist-flick Armored isn’t your cinematic equivalent of an adventurous dinner at an exotic-themed restaurant. It is your usual simple meal at home instead. And getting that simple meal ‘right’ is much more difficult than falling short in trying to cook up a gourmet’s culinary delight!

This unpretentious thriller begins with Ty Hackett (Columbus Short), a decorated young veteran back from Iraq, on the first day of his job as an armoured truck guard. A mock ambush later, Ty bonds with his colleagues over beer and pool-table conversation about ‘being a hero’ versus ‘being right’. When Fishburne’s alcoholic Baines makes an Iraq-related comment that Ty doesn’t react well to, the leader of the pack, and Ty’s godfather, Mike, played as a whispery smarm by Dillon, assumes the role of a concerned big brother to Ty. So when Ty risks losing his house and the custody of his younger brother owing to a bank foreclosure, Mike calmly suggests they loot the very money that they securely ferry from one bank to another everyday. “There are no bad guys here, just good guys”, Mike says, and the seduction is accomplished.

But the rule of the thumb says that things invariably go wrong in a heist; and they do so here as well. Even though there are no bad guys involved, an innocent man does get killed minutes into the stashing away of half the booty. Ty, still burdened by the guilt of his Iraq exploits, immediately regrets his decision and seals himself inside one of the armoured trucks. The remainder of the film is a tense standoff between Ty and the 5 men outside, heightened by the arrival of a curious cop.

Antal is good with ambiences, especially confined places. His previous Vacancy, an underrated hell-hotel thriller, was about a couple trapped in a macabre hotel room. His first, Kontroll, was an atmospheric account of train ticket inspectors. While his first two films used night and darkness to build up an obnubilating mood, Antal cannot really do much with the daylight proceedings of this film. He does however use the rundown steel yard effectively where the group assembles to hide the money and where nearly the whole movie takes place. One is free to read what one may into this site of economic dilapidation with a confused Iraq war veteran trapped inside an armoured truck while the ‘good’ guys outside fret over the looming loss of their ‘righteous’ money.

Antal seems to be genuinely committed to the film. Save a silly contrivance that allows Ty to sneak out of the armoured truck and back in, Antal keeps the narrative fairly intelligent and plausible. His reliance on old-fashioned character build-up as opposed to jumping straight into fast-cut action lends a definite charm to the film. Antal isn’t just collecting an easy paycheque here. The same sadly can’t be said of everybody in the cast. Dillon is expectedly impressive, while Short makes an impact in his first major outing. Skeet Ulrich is quite efficacious as the ambivalent wimp in the group. But the remaining principal cast is very poor, old-stagers Reno and Fishburne simply going through the motions.

A rushed climax notwithstanding, Armored is a decent watch. It may not boast of CGI thrills and global setting frills, but that only means it’s not high on calories. As a lean actioner though, it is as mean as they get.

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