Starring: Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Milo Ventimiglia, Fred Ward, Columbus Short, Skeet Ulrich

Director: Nimrod Antal

Writer: James V. Simpson

Cinematography: Andrzej Sekula

Original Score: John Murphy

Running Time: 88 Mins.

Ok, so, take every stock action character you can think of and a premise that would usually be found littering the bottom shelf at your nearest DVD rental shop and what do you get? Armored, thats what! Quite how this ever slipped through the net marked straight-to-DVD is anybody’s guess, especially given the so-called “stars” of this by-the-numbers action/thriller are all facing a lack of anything remotely approaching a hit, be it critical or commercial, in years, I mean Skeet Ulrich is even in it!

Though something is stopping me short of tearing into Armored in the way that this kind of antiquated B-movie really does deserve, and that is the anomaly known as the guilty pleasure. Starting off rather slowly and failing to engage we are introduced to each character in turn, the rookie, the wildcard, the safe one, the wary one so on and so forth, these cardboard cut-out’s all work for an armored vehicle company transporting cash (Armored, get it!) from bank to bank, hatching on a plan to rob the vans and play it out like a hijack ends up going, predictably/naturally, wrong.

 Trapped in the van is the rookie (Short), and outside are the “bad” guys (led by Dillon) trying to break in, and all around them everything that can go wrong and make this far from straightforward, does go wrong. Uninteresting and boring while making the routine introduction and setting up the premise, thankfully it steps up a gear upon its disused factory bound setting, going all Reservoir Dogs on us and having the fragile relationships between the crew slowly disintegrate to a point where the two-dimensional characterisation becomes a minor distraction and the heated dialogue keeps you hooked.

So while it is far from nothing new it is zippy enough to pass the time, and of the cast filled predominantly with people once touted as A-List, and now working either under the radar in indie productions (Dillon), appearing on TV (Fishburne) or terrible comedy remakes (Reno) none stand out and surprisingly, on the whole, they resist hamming it up, bar Fishburne who is saddled with the “wildcard” tag and a terrible accent to boot, while Dillon tries to go all Denzel in Training Day on us but plays in far too weakly to make any impact.

The improbably named director Nimrod Antal is currently lensing Predators and on the evidence of this we shouldnt get our hopes TOO high, though the pacing ramps up somewhat towards the end as the camera is let free and loose to display a little character and energy, resisting to cut too close, a la Michael Bay, and avoiding the use of shaky cam, this is old-school action in every sense of the word, for better or worse.

VERDICT

A by the numbers B-movie action/thriller becomes watchable and engaging, just about, and should you let yourself overlook the “once were A-List” cast and lack of originality you might just enjoy Armored in a guilty, should know better kind of way.

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