The plan, of course, goes wrong in every imaginable way


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Hollywood never learns. When you put a gang of thieves – or doctors, lawyers, or businessmen for that matter – on screen for the full running time of a movie, don’t make the audience spend half the movie trying to distinguish among them. The simple solution is to cast different faces, but here in “Armored” we have to work hard to learn who’s who in this crowd of men adorned with the scruffy beards and carefully tended hair that encircles their mouths. Let’s resist the temptation to digress into the silliness of facial hair circles.

            The movie opens with Ty (Columbus Short) becoming a full fledged guard on the armored truck “Eagle 12.” He is an honored Iraq vet trying to support his younger brother while paying down mortgage debt after the death of both parents. He is also the gentle hero whose bravery and values will be tested mightily by his own peers. His new colleagues on the truck have planned a simple “no injuries, no problems” heist of their own truck which will carry $42,000,000 on the next trip. Will the honesty of our courageous hero prevail over the demands of those mortgages and medical bills?

            The plan, of course, goes wrong in every imaginable way. A simple mega million heist turns into murder and accidental deaths. Six little robbers; and then there were five, and four, and three, and two, and finally one – one against our hero. We watch two armored trucks and a cop car blasted to ashes as the body count mounts in appropriate proportion to a string of stupid decisions and choices made by the not-so-bright guards. While I don’t make light of the expanding catastrophe, it seems an unnecessary distraction to the actors who are genuinely trying to build their characters and succeed well in doing just that.

            By the time a lone cop car drives slowly and ominously into the deserted warehouse yard, suspense has grabbed us tightly. We care about Ty and even about some of his weak peers gone wrong. Credit Matt Dillon with creating a fine villain with a core of rotten mush; and Laurence Fishburne with the vicious laughter of a madman; Milo Ventimiglia for the innocent young idealist; Fred Ward as the incorruptible old pro who has seen it all; and especially Columbus Short whose Ty is both shaded and honest within the confines of an all too obvious plot.

            When actors work as hard as these do, we are entitled to ask some questions about plot. Will Hollywood ever learn that a cop never ventures into barren areas without backup? Will crooks ever learn that if more than one person knows a secret, it is no longer a secret? Will writers of B-movies ever understand that if you are going to coax good performances from actors, you have an obligation to give them a plot without holes big enough to soak up an armored truck? Where are the scriptwriters these actors deserve?


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