'Armored'

A so-so heist-gone-awry thriller, "Armored" doesn't exactly take its audience captive.

A so-so heist-gone-awry thriller that’s light on the thrills, “Armored” doesn’t exactly take its audience captive. As a crew of money-hungry armored truck drivers scheming to snatch a fortune in federal reserve notes, a colorful cast, including Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne and Skeet Ulrich, is allowed to ham it up in promising early scenes before being made limply subordinate to the tedious cracking-under-pressure narrative. Screen Gems’ release, sans press screenings or strongly bankable stars, won’t steal much more than a pittance at the holiday season B.O.

Relative newcomer Columbus Short capably takes the lead as young Ty Hackett, a decorated Iraq war vet and recently hired member of California’s Eagle Shield Security. His parents deceased and his bank account dangerously low, Ty lives in a rundown house with his younger brother, Jimmy (Andre Jamal Kinney), a graffiti artist who might as well have the word “hostage” spray-painted on his forehead. Unable to secure extra shifts from Eagle Shield boss Ashcroft (Fred Ward), Ty is vulnerable to increasingly strong persuasion from tough-guy co-worker Mike Cochrane (Dillon) that the armored transport crew ought to pull an inside job when the time is right.

Refreshing at first, director Nimrod Antal’s unfashionably measured pacing begins to grate after too many scenes that travel slowly to familiar destinations. James V. Simpson’s verbose screenplay ridiculously overstates Ty’s temptation to turn criminal, particularly in a laughable passage that has an elderly social worker stopping by the house after dark, threatening to separate high schooler Jimmy from his older brother.

Initially, Ty goes along when Mike and four other Eagle Shield workers hijack the transfer of $42 million in crisp bank notes, the crew pulling a pair of armored trucks into a dilapidated warehouse where they plan to hide the stash. But Ty’s conscience nags, particularly once things — surprise! — fail to proceed as planned.

An unremarkable car chase notwithstanding, “Armored” allows Antal to continue his tradition — begun in “Kontroll” and “Vacancy” — of setting action within confined areas. But the director’s spatial inventiveness falls short here, as the film’s overextended warehouse business has remorseful Ty taking refuge in one of the vehicles for far too much of the brief running time. The movie especially strains credulity when it comes time for Antal to show that those state-of-the-art trucks aren’t impenetrable after all.

As one-dimensionally ruthless thieves, Dillon and Fishburne have too little to do, with Ulrich and Reno faring little better.

Tech credits are merely adequate with the exception of “Pulp Fiction” d.p. Andrzej Sekula’s sharp shooting in widescreen.

Armored

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Screen Gems presentation of a Stars Road Entertainment production, in association with Farah Films. Produced by Joshua Donen, Dan Farah. Executive producers, Debra James, Russell Hollander. Co-executive producers, Luis Guerrero, Chris Lemos. Directed by Nimrod Antal. Screenplay, James V. Simpson.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Andrzej Sekula; editor, Armen Minasian; music, John Murphy; production designer, Jon Gary Steele; art director, Chris Cornwell; set decorator, Dena Roth; costume designer, Maya Lieberman; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), Joseph Geisinger; supervising sound editor, Chic Ciccolini III; visual effects supervisor, Rocco Passionino; visual effects, Zoic Studios; stunt coordinator, Lance Gilbert; associate producer, Trae Ireland; assistant director, Eric Tignini; casting, David H. Rapaport, Lindsey Hayes Kroeger. MPAA rating: PG-13. Reviewed at AMC Southdale 16, Edina, Minn., Dec. 4, 2009. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Mike Cochrane - Matt Dillon Quinn - Jean Reno Baines - Laurence Fishburne Palmer - Amaury Nolasco Ashcroft - Fred Ward Eckhart - Milo Ventimiglia Dobbs - Skeet Ulrich Ty Hackett - Columbus Short Jimmy Hackett - Andre Jamal Kinney
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