Just what the market has been missing, a heist film for morons!
So six armored car security guards decide to steal the money in their cars one day. Even though they’ve got name tags on their uniforms, it’s still simpler just to remember them by their blatant character cliches. You’ve got the white guy, the black guy, the hispanic guy, the religious guy, the crazy guy, and the new guy. The white guy (Matt Dillon) and the black guy (Laurence Fishburne) are played by actors you’d recognize (hey, those Oscar nominations don’t pay the bills folks) so you know that they’ll die last. The hispanic guy, religious guy, and crazy guy (Amaury Nolasco, Skeet Ulrich, and Jean Reno) only have enough lines to reinforce their caricatures so you know that they’ll die first. New guy (Columbus Short) is a decorated Gulf War veteran (of course he is), whose parents died, leaving him two mortgages and a stack of medical bills (of course they did, dead movie parents are dicks), and now he’s doing his best to make ends meet and raise his little brother who skips school but spray paints like totally artistically (of course he does, I mean, it was either that or being a good basketball player, they flipped a coin).
There’s a brief flirtation with depth for the first interminable forty five minutes when it is established that working class neighborhoods in Los Angeles suck because all the jobs left, leaving piles of debt and hopelessness. Don’t worry though, they don’t bother showing any drugs, gangs, or crime. It’s far more effective just to show empty streets full of run-down houses and no people. An old lady social worker who just doesn’t understand how tough it is to make ends meet or how important it is to keep families together threatens to take New Guy’s brother away though, because in the movies, social workers are required either to be small-minded judgemental assholes or naive saints just trying to save the children. New Guy agrees to the heist because he just can’t stand to lose his brother, and can’t imagine that anyone would be the least bit suspicious if he suddenly started paying back his mortgage with neat stacks of sequentially numbered hundred dollar bills robbed from the truck he drives.
Obviously, the hardest part of any crime is figuring out how to do the deed with no one noticing. Luckily, in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, they find an abandoned steel plant that conveniently is moments off of their established route, (apparently) completely devoid of people, and amazingly has absolutely no cell phone or radio coverage of any kind. Also to add to the beautiful convenience of their plan, their two trucks carrying $42 million don’t have any scheduled radio check-ins for an entire hour. That’s supposed to add tension to the plot, but all it does is reinforce the idiocy of the entire situation. The dispatcher just had to call them once and say “hey, Frank’s picking up some Chinese, you want any?” and it’s game over. Of course, a homeless guy stumbles across them instead, gets shot for being a witness, and New Guy locks himself into one of the trucks like a three year old throwing a tantrum. The other guys can’t just leave him in there, but he can’t escape with them out there, and the clock is ticking down on their dillemma.
Nobody was supposed to get hurt in the plan! But who are the characters fucking kidding? There is no plan here. Remember how half of Ocean’s 11 was the meticulous planning of the heist, figuring out step by step how to overcome the obstacles like an elaborate game of chess? The heist itself is really only the last quarter or so of that film. The entire plan in Armored, though, is “well we’ll pull over, bury the money, and then tell everybody that some guys totally tricked us and took it.” Did that work with your mom when you were six and “lost” the twenty dollars she gave you to pay for the field trip? Well if it did, then you probably have a genetic predisposition for being so monumentally stupid that you think a bank would buy that story.
Luckily, New Guy is able to save the day, save the cop who manages to get shot (Milo Ventimiglia), save his brother, and even gets promised a reward at the end, so that he can presumably keep the house. There’s something utterly perverse and unsettling about the ending after the initial set up of how unfair the entire system is, the way it just sort of pats New Guy on the head at the end and tells him what a good boy he was. Throw the help a fucking bone, let them eat cake and all that. Look, make a stupid meaningless PG-13 ninth generation Die Hard rip off if you want, just don’t wrap it up with a deus ex machina happy ending from the powers that be after justifying the protagonist’s actions on the basis of the injustice of the powers that be.
The movie is just stupid, there’s no other way to put it, and no real point to being particularly clever about it. Lord knows the script doesn’t try to be. The characters are morons, the circumstances in which they find themselves are self-generated and unimaginative, the action lacks the least bit of tension or interest. I can’t imagine any reason to pay to see this movie in a theater. Hell, I can’t imagine bothering to pause while flipping channels when it inevitabily lands on TNT or TBS in a few months.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.