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The Evil That Security Guards Do: Explosive tough-guy movie fizzles into bland familiar territory in Armored 

Explosive tough-guy movie fizzles into bland familiar territory in Armored.

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Judging from the previews, Armored looked destined to deliver high-octane thrills. Instead, we're handed a weakly written and simple-minded heist movie that wants us to believe it's a character study. The intro begins with sad tremolo guitar that attempts to induce despair and sincerity, trying to resemble "indie cool" and something heavier than it is. It's nothing short of boring. I needed a thick shell of armor to protect me from the banality.

The film tells of armored car guards who decide to hijack one of their company's own trucks, which contains a hefty $42 million in cash. Mike (Matt Dillon) has to convince close pal and Iraq War veteran Hackett (Stomp the Yard's Columbus Short) to get on their side. Hackett, quite predictably, has financial and familial problems but at the last minute relinquishes, the last straw brought on by a social worker (Lorna Raver sans Drag Me to Hell makeup). His one condition is the kiss-of-death Hollywood promise that no one gets hurt. As with all heist films, however, things do not go as planned. So the audience watches the bulk of Armored in the film's post-heist mode, enduring the bloody consequences of an absurd dragged-out melodrama. Propelled by greed, bad planning killer instincts, and one good conscience, each guard will stop at nothing to garner his reward.

The pre-heist plot spends far too much time setting up unnecessary relations. The camaraderie in the transport locker room is strained and loaded with the male bonding BS that screenwriters think is essential to connect us to the characters. Stories begin with "remember when... " and "my pop used to... " and despite the capable ensemble cast, this is nothing more than a tough guy movie. These dudes convey intangible emotions to elicit empathy or sympathy but just can't drag us in.

Director Nimród Antal (Vacancy) crudely helms this crime thriller, which at times resembles a mediocre Encore Channel action movie. Armored snaps your belief system as you grimace, swallowing the stereotypical hokum Antal dishes out. There's one scene when the guards nervously pick up the huge sum of cash that doesn't work at all. Obviously, this was meant to seethe with suspense. The guards dart uneasy glances, but it just looks silly.

Nimrod has ample chances to use camera tricks and quick-cut editing to add some tension, but relies instead on a wide shots, slow zooms, static stationary photography and one slow-moving armored car chase. The lack of substance and tension is almost debilitating. Armored had a chance to go all Reservoir Dogs on us, with its entirely male cast, guns, dissention and mistrust in the ranks and an abandoned warehouse, but in the end, Armored is clearly no Reservoir Dogs. The only surprise is the order in which each guard croaks.

Dillon, who's always dependable from macho dolt to lovable lunk-head, lets the script drag him to new lows. Laurence Fishburne, smiling and round-faced, merely walks through his role as a drunken loose cannon.

The main problem is how serious this flick strives to be. Usually in a movie like this, there are some "so bad it's good" moments, but Armored is absolutely devoid of such instances. With an hour and a half running time, a slow-moving pace and a lack of cursing, my theory is it's vying for the next TV movie spot.

Armored ★✩✩✩✩

Starring Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco, Fred Ward, Milo Ventimiglia, Skeet Ulrich. Director: Nimród Antal. Rated PG-13

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