Monday, 26 July 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Armored

Every now and again, in between all the big blockbusters, so-called "Oscar" fare and foreign language films that I get to review in the course of a year, it is nice every now and again to get to see an enjoyable B movie, and this is what we get with Armored. This is a new film released this year by Nimrod Antal, who has already made a pretty good film in Vacancy, and also has the newest Predator film, Predators, in cinemas right now. Antal is really coming along as a director with great potential. In the case of Armored, which can be said to resemble Reservoir Dogs in many senses, this is a good little oddity to see. The story in Armored follows Ty Hackett, a former US Army veteran played by Columbus Short, who struggles to maintain his household and custody of his brother Jimmy, played by Andre Kinney, following the death of their parents. His god father and co-worker Mike Cochrane, played by Matt Dillon, has planned to include Ty in a plot to rob their own Eagle Shield security firm of the money they are transferring from Federal Reserve, alongside Quinn, his brother-in-law Baines, Palmer and Dobbs, played by Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne, Amaury Nolasco and Skeet Ulrich respectively. To start with the good regarding this film, there are a number of good performances. Columbus Short delivers a really solid performance as Ty. As the main character of the film, he is able gain the audience's sympathies on his side very well, but by no means through being whiny. He portrays the different aspects of Ty well, as a role model/figure of strength to his brother and as the young protégé of sorts to his godfather Mike. As Mike, Matt Dillon too gives a good performance, playing the decay of the moral conscience that Ty possesses really well. Dillon's interactions and dialogues with Short give the film some of its best moments, and the father/son relationship displayed by the two which is believable enough creates a lot of tension throughout the film. Also delivering a good performance is the ever magnificent Laurence Fishburne as Baines. As the more unhinged member of the group, Fishburne creates a powerful presence onscreen. It is a case of one of those characters that gives you Goosebumps as soon as you see them. Fishburne really sinks into this role. Also, for a first-time screenwriter James V. Simpson he has written a suitably interesting piece of work. The script is really strong from a dialogue perspective, helping create the very human feeling that the piece has. It manages to keep the film interesting and make you want to see the film through to its conclusion. From a technical standpoint, the cinematography of the film is pretty good. It is shot by Andrzej Sekula, who has a history of films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, American Psycho and Vacancy. Like Vacancy, who shoots Armored in a very dirty kind of grungy way. When I say dirty and grungy, I don't mean like those tortune-porn movies like Hostel, I mean legitimately. The film has a balance of colours and textures, even if most of them are dark. Even in the darkness too you can see what is going on. Sekula shoots in a style that would remind you, particularly in the case of Vacancy, of stuff like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here, considering the setting for much of the film, he makes the abandoned steel mill look really grimy but in a good way. Finally, Nimrod Antal seems to really keep control of the film very well. Thankfully, he decided not to got mad or anything, and with the budget he was given directs a really solid and fine bit of schlock. However, that said, the film is not without its flaws by any means. It is not lazy film-making, but Armored really does not stand out as anything special, and I think that seeing it more than two times would really be pushing it. The script, while a good first effort, is very simplistic and base. The ensemble cast is not balanced enough, with some characters being way too simplistic and two-dimensional, which means that some actors, including the very fine Jean Reno, does not get anything to bust his acting chops over. Whenever these more two-dimensional characters stand alongside the more fully-rounded characters, it does not balance out very well. Also, the film is predictable enough for the most part, due to the relatively lack of inventiveness on the plot and story structure. Furthermore, the editing in some cases was a problem for me, with the chopping and changing from the isolated location taking away from the tension and claustrophobia that is built in these scenes. Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but as far as I am concerned, once they got to the abandoned mill, the camera should never have left there to have scene from the outside. However, for the most part, they did follow due course. Also, the chase scenes were interesting enough, particularly in the lack of space and driving around in large armored trucks. Armored is an interesting enough film that is certainly worth a watch and is very admirable film-making. Furthermore, it is short and accessible at only eight-eight minutes, unlike many bloated films, and arguably has a greater balance in terms of good to bad than most of these films.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.3/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Relatively pleased

P.S. I know, the tagline sucks, but hey, that's marketing. This is worth a watch.

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