Whatever happened to Matt Dillon? Now there’s someone that blatantly should have been included in our Noughties Falls From Grace list – he was going great guns in the ’90s with Wild Things and There’s Something About Mary, then dropped off the Hollywood scene with the sort of speed usually reserved for people who, well, died. Turns out he didn’t though – he’s now starring in this armoured-car heist thriller with a list of fellow has-beens and no-names, directed by competent (if b-grade) action maestro Nimród Antal. Intriguing.
Unfortunately, that’s just about the only intriguing thing about this by-the-book action flick that follows ex-Iraq soldier Ty (Columbus Short), who’s now working as a guard on a fleet of armoured trucks to keep his family fed. Ty’s buddy Mike (a back-from-the-dead Dillon) cajoles the poor cash-strapped fella into participating, along with fellow guards Baines (Laurence Fishburne), Quinn (Jean Reno) and Palmer (Amaury Nolasco) in a supposedly foolproof plan to steal $42 million by faking a robbery on the trucks. Turns out – shock horror! – it isn’t so foolproof, and Ty is soon caught in a race for his life as the other guards turn on him in an effort to save their sweet sweet cash.
Given the predictability of the formula, the actors handle the paltry material they’ve been given as well as can be expected. Dillon plays his Wild Things-esque good guy with a shady side a little two-dimensional, but compelling enough. Short is typically bland in the put-upon hero role, while Fishburne is commanding in screen presence as usual, but essentially dialling in his performance (hello, precious recession paycheque). Antal, whose first Amerian work Vacancy showed promise and whose 2003 Hungarian film Kontroll showed even more, seems to have plateaued with this one. It ticks all the boxes in terms of gritty, textured cinematography, a hard-hitting soundtrack and reliable veterans like Fishburne and Reno in support roles, but despite this, the film never rises above mediocre B-grade status. Confining the action of the second half to a warehouse hideout, a la Reservoir Dogs, comes off as a clumsy and dull choice rather than an inspired one – this is no Tarantino we’re dealing with here.
Turns out Dillon shouldn’t have bothered crawling out of his coffin for this one. Armored is a missable, predictable and forgettable film that flounders in the wake of the genre’s more intelligent January offerings (A Prophet, 44 Inch Chest). Unless you’re in one of those let’s-just-walk-into-the-next-movie-that’s-showing type situations, you can safely bypass it.