Armored is a well made throw back to some of the solid action films of the '80s and early '90s. It's not a movie that's going to change the way you look at motion pictures but it is going to give you ninety minutes of complete escapism entertainment. The film, features a cast of veteran actors including Matt Dillon, who we often don't see in a film like this, Laurence Fishburne and Jean Reno as well as some great performances from "Heroes" star Milo Ventimiglia and Columbus Short, who gives a star-making performance in the lead role. The film is directed with a fast paced urgency, which lends to the desperation of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. The movie doesn't try to re-invent the heist film in any new or innovative way but instead chooses to embrace the genre and deliver a film with lots of action and suspense that will definitely leave the audience fully satisfied.
In the film, Columbus Short plays Ty Hackett, an Iraq War veteran who resigns from the Army to come home and raise his little brother after his parents pass away. Ty is forced to take his Father's old job as an armed guard and works with his Dad's best friend Mike Cochrane (Dillon). Ty is not finding it easy to raise his brother. Money problems and not enough shifts at work is making it difficult for him to pay the mortgage. He's in risk of loosing the house to the bank and his brother to child services. Mike convinces Ty that the answer to his problems is to join him and the other guards in a scheme to steal $42 million in cargo that they are to transport the next day. Reluctantly Ty eventually agrees but is still hesitant. All goes well until they are spotted stealing by a homeless man and Baines, one of the guards played by the always-excellent Laurence Fishburne, who has a drinking problem, shoots the man without any consideration. Unaware that there would be any killing, Ty no longer feels comfortable going along with the plan.
Eventually things get more complicated when they are spotted again, this time by a Police patrolman played surprisingly strong by Milo Ventimiglia. Mike tries to get him to leave without bloodshed but once again Baines prematurely shoots him. Now, completely outraged by his partner's actions Ty's sense of honor kicks in as he attempts to save the cop. After blowing up some of the money as a diversion, he locks himself and the cop in the armored car with the rest of the money so they'll be safe. While his former friends try taking out the door hinges to get into the truck, Ty is able to get away to call for help. As the rest of the crew start to come apart, Ty returns to the truck to help the fallen officer. In order to get Ty to cooperate before the police arrive and it's too late, Mike has Quinn (Reno) kidnap Ty's brother. Now, Ty must not only stop his partners but also save his brother and the cop at the same time.
The cast really makes what could otherwise have been a rehash of the same tired movie, a real exciting film to watch. Matt Dillon is quite good in a role that we haven't really seen him in before. He adapts to the action quite well and is completely believable in the part. The only thing that works to his disadvantage in the movie is that he looks so young. He's barely aged in fifteen years and it's hard to swallow Fishburne and Reno as his peers, even though they are actually very close in age. Dillon makes it work nonetheless, which is to his credit as an actor, still it makes the father-figure/mentor role he plays to Short's character a bit less believable. Fishburne brings an interesting flair to his role and really adds a level of "loose cannon" to his character, which is what you need to make a film like this work. It's always great seeing Fred Ward on screen as is Skeet Ulrich who does some very nice work as another guard who has second thoughts about the heist.
Amaury Nolasco plays a character very different from the one he played on "Prison Break" but is very believable as an extremely religious guard. Ventimiglia shows that he has what it takes to make the leap from TV to film with this role. His quit reserve is a perfect fit and a monologue he gives about eating chilidogs with his father is surprisingly moving. But it's Short's performance that absolutely steals the film. It's what audiences that see this film will walk away with. Mark my words "Columbus Short is going to be a huge movie star." He's just got "it" and it shines through in this role. He makes the character vulnerable and strong at the same time. You really get a sense of this soldier's heroic core and how that motivates his actions. Short shows without a shadow of a doubt that he has what it takes to lead a big action film and be able to go toe-to-toe with major A-list actors. If anything, Armored could be the "coming out" party for Columbus Short as a leading man and big time action movie star.
I really liked the fact that the filmmakers used real world issues like the war and unemployment as a backdrop to the action because it grounded the film in a reality that the audience can relate to while still delivering a fast-paced action film. One thing that bothers me however is that the studio is marketing the film as a movie "without bad guys" and that's just not true ... it's a movie "without good guys," which is what I like about it. Everyone is guilty and that's what I like. Although I will say, the fact that Ty is complicate in the crime in the beginning of the film does make him a bit less virtuous in the end but I guess he makes up for it with his good deeds yet you can't help feeling like he may of got away from something. Again, that is so refreshing, a movie where the hero is really as responsible as the villains. Director Nimrod Antal does a great job of keeping the pacing and the action fast while still having time for character development that pays off in the end. The script by James V. Simpson is quick and to the point but still easy to follow and doesn't get you lost in the minutia of the plot. In the end, Armored isn't going to light the world on fire but it is a completely satisfying, well acted, explosive thrill-ride that will keep you entertained the entire time.