Usually reliable Laurence Fishburne turns in a ghastly performance as Baines in Armored. Either a critical example of miscasting or poor direction, he does not even seem to be trying. Everything about the character feels false, a supposed jokester who acts completely irresponsible with an irritating laugh.
Baines is part of a close-knit crew who drive armored vans, collecting money, and making deliveries. It is not the type of job that affords casual pranks and joking around, further making Baines too hard to handle. That is not to say these guys do not have fun, but that is all this character does.
There is a movie somewhere in this field. Staging a heist movie, well, that was a missed opportunity. Even without knowledge of proper procedure, the plan headed by Mike (Matt Dillon) is far too simple. If an armored van company were in such minimal control of their vehicles on the road, these types of heists would happen everyday.
Armored takes time to move, building its hero Ty (Columbus Short) with the usual modern problems. His wife has passed away, the bank is about to take his home, he is an Iraq war veteran, and Child Welfare is considering putting his son into foster care. This guy is a mess, so audience sympathy is undoubtedly with him.
It gives him enough reason to go along with the plan put in front of him by Mike. They literally plan to blow up the trucks, hide the money, and say they were hijacked. That is the entire plan. Of course it quickly spirals out of control, Ty is forced to switch sides and work against his co-workers while saving the day.
Armored’s issues stem from a lack of tension, and certainly a bare minimum level of surprise. At a meager 88-minutes, the film lacks energy, struggling to find a pacing. Half of the movie is over by the time the heist begins, and few of the characters are given any real development. As you can expect, those that have barely said a word do not stand a chance of getting out alive.
Unsatisfied is how you will leave Armored, as if all involved forget to insert necessary elements. Action is brief, including a marginally exciting chase with two armored cars, and the finale feels rushed. After waiting for that special, unique finish, it flat out ends in a matter of minutes. If you have spent this much time building, you might as well stretch the film’s legs to give an audience something to remember.
Black levels are the immediate stand out quality for Sony’s AVC encode. Depth is stunning, generated by inky, deep, and consistently performing blacks. Crush is a marginal problem, sapping the frame of image detail on multiple occasions. Colors are natural, with slightly warm flesh tones that allow them to show some depth without appearing unnatural.
Sharpness is also consistent, with few notable dips. This benefits strong, textured facial detail. Laurence Fishburne has one of the more textured faces in the business, and this disc brings it all out. A light grain is not intrusive on the image, and is in fact barely noticeable for most of the film. Minor ringing sprouts up early, but is quickly extinguished as the film moves into darker areas.
Some smoke in the background of the bar at 12:42 shows some banding, the only time this is a problem. Environments can produce some fantastic visuals. Watch as the trucks first leave to begin the heist. The pans from the air include a construction site that offers plenty to gawk at. Shots outside the steel mill, especially from the roof during a confrontation, are spectacular. Every rivet, broken window, pain chip, and stain appears visible and defined.
Despite the trailers that make this appear as an all-out action movie, this one is subdued. Much of what this DTS-HD mix is given to work with is echoes. Inside the steel mill, the crew work to open the rear door by smashing it with scrap metal. Despite the annoyance factor of non-stop pounding, it adequately provides an enveloping effect into the surrounds. The loud clang as metal hits metal is clean on the high end.
Inside the truck, the rear speakers continue this effect, with an additional appropriately muffled low-end. The truck engines are quite loud, providing a deep, heavy rumble as they rev up. Pans are handled well as they travel across the frame. The score, mostly forgettable as it is, also provides a smooth layer of bass.
Some gunfire is notable for its clarity. Jean Reno fires a handgun at the back of the truck at one point, the right surround capturing each bullet as it pings off the door. A few explosions provide adequate LFE response, certainly enough to satisfy those who require a strong presence from their subwoofer. Debris swirls into the surrounds to complete the effect. There are no issues with fidelity or distortion, as expected for any modern film.
A commentary includes producer Dan Farah, Skeet Ulrich, and Milo Ventimiglia. Planning the Heist is the standard making-of, congratulatory and promotional. Armed and Underground focuses on set design for nearly seven minutes. Crash Course covers the stunt work, while trailers, MovieIQ, and generic BD-Live support are left.