Now if that line up doesn't get you interested I don't know what will. How about the story? The plot sounded simple, contained, and suggested that the characters would have time to grow and play off each other. That wasn't far off the mark.
It seems that the team have been planning a heist to steal one of the biggest hauls from one of the banks that they service, faking a armed heist, they'll keep the money for themselves and pretend that others made off with the cash.
Their plan seems perfect, but they just need one member, and if they can convince this ex-soldier to help them, they just might pull it off.
From the opening scenes you can tell almost instantly that the film is going to look great and that we're in for some strong performances. From the opening shots of Matt Dillon the film starts to make you feel that there's something much more going on behind that recognisable face, and it's a face that's great to see back on the big screen.
There's no doubt that Matt Dillon is a great actor, but he does need a strong script and director behind him to really bring out his best, and throughout the film he's getting close to that. It's one of his strongest performances and he's backed by a superb cast to boot.
However good that cast list is, there's something a little lacking in it too, for despite the huge cast some of them are criminally under used. Look at Jean Reno for example, his character has a few lines, but there's nothing to him and he, like a few others in the cast seem to be cast into a role that is far too small for him.
Part of me was looking forward to Reno, Dillon and Laurence Fishburne playing off of each other, and while Fishburne had a role that was a little more fleshed out and gave him more of a part in the film, Reno had next to nothing and could have been played by anyone, and that's a shame. An ensemble cast in a film that really didn't have a need for one.
Amaury Nolasco and Skeet Ulrich are used a little more and Nolasco has a couple of really strong scenes to rival those of Dillon, and while Milo Ventimiglia has a chance to cast off his Heroes role, he too is quite restricted in his role.
However the fact that the great cast aren't used to the best of their capabilities isn't something that really harm the film. Sure it leaves the film fan a little disappointed and a couple of the characters a little two dimensional, but the film still delivers.
Someone that hasn't been mentioned yet is the real lead of the film to play off of Dillon, and that's Columbus Short. He does a great job and really has me convinced throughout the film.
A good aspect of these two characters, and the actors behind them, is that neither of them overplay their roles and they do, and forgive me for saying this, keep it real. Dillon doesn't play his role as an all out evil character, even when things have gone terribly wrong and his character is falling apart there's still a lot of reality and humanity in the performance.
The same can be said of Short, his character is not the all out good guy as you would expect on paper. There are times when he's behind the plan, when he commits to it, and times when he realises what's right and wrong. Interestingly he only makes that decision when an outside influence takes him back to his past career as a soldier; it's these events that turn him around.
Another strong aspect of the performances is how they play together and the bond that they have together is built quickly and strongly in the opening sections of the film and really does pay off later on.
That leads me to the story which is very good; it brings in that heist film and delivers a film with a few nice twists to it. I do think it was lacking in some suspense and surprises, but the story did deliver, don't get me wrong, and at times packed a strong punch. The ending did seem to wrap up very quickly, and for someone who has seen a lot of edited down releases, it did suggest to me that there's a longer cut available.
Then there's the aspect that I've mentioned, but not delved into enough, the way the film looks. Nimród Antal is a superb director and his eye for making a cinematic shot is fantastic and can be seen throughout the film time and time again. Shots that are classic in their composition, bring you right into the action, and shots that look amazing on screen.
The cinematography, shot composition and lighting were superb, and at times spectacular. I love what Antal does with the camera, and here he's on top form.
The picture looks fantastic throughout the film, and Antal can be blamed for that. He's brought a strong, bold look to the film that is carried through the cinematography, lighting, effects and colours, and they hold up even through the action sequences. Then there's the detail in the film, you can see it in every shot, particularly the close up shots of the actors, and when there's layers of depth in a shot the detail still carries through, it's a strong transfer.
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Another aspect of the Blu-ray is the audio, and the sound is really good through the film making strong use of the rear speakers and of movement of audio around the room. So often films get lazy when they come to the use of home cinema multiple speakers, but here there's nothing of the sort.
Audio Commentary with Producer Dan Farah and actors Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia, Planning the Heist: Making Of, Armed & Underground: Production Design, Crash Course: Stunts, MovieIQ and sync
Audio Commentary with Producer Dan Farah and actors Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia
I have to say that I'm thoroughly disappointed that we didn't hear from Nimród Antal, the writer or any of the other cast. The two actors we do get are good and in the second half deliver some interesting commentary, although by far the more engaging is Ventimiglia, Ulrich does well, but there's just not enough about what actually went on in the film, something other cast members and especially the director could have brought us. A poor showing considering the cast involved.
Planning the Heist: Making Of
Here's where we get the director, in the featurettes. In this making of we have plenty from him and from each of the actors who all eagerly discuss the film and give us plenty of information on the film and the production. An interesting making of.
Armed & Underground: Production Design
This is a light featurette that doesn't deliver anything too exciting. Some discussion of the main set and the work behind it, but it's a pretty standard featurette.
Crash Course: Stunts
A good featurette that looks at one of the main stunts of the film which gives us good access to the stunt co-ordinator, more from the director and plenty more from the stars involved in the stunt.
MovieIQ and sync
I've seen this feature before on Blu-ray and when I last tried it, which was some time ago, it gave an error and I couldn't display anything. So with Armored I decided to give it another go, and I was surprised.
The MovieIQ system pulls key information about the scene currently showing down to the device you're accessing it on. It presents information on the actors, the music playing and information around the scene itself. There's a host of information to be pulled out, and if you like learning more about the production then this will be a bonus for you.
However it's fair to say that there are issues, and the main issues are around the interface to access the information.
On the Playstation3 the information display obscures far too much of the picture and is difficult to see all the information as you have to continually navigate around the menu to see everything, and it's not clear when new information displays.
I thought it would be a great idea to take advantage of the Sync option which allows you to view the details on another device, anything with a web browser. I pulled up my laptop, entered the sync code from the Blu-ray menu, and amazingly the information was fed down to my laptop as the scenes changed.
However, and this is another bad point, the interface is exactly the same as it is on the PS3, sitting in the side of the screen and leaving so much of the display empty while you continually navigate around the menu. There's no attempt to try and use all the screen to display all the information about the scene, which you would think they would do.
Improve the interface on the web browser and this could be an interesting application. Better still add in a wiki-type ability, or a link to IMDB information, and this could be excellent.
Armored is a good film, a strong thriller that will deliver just what you expect, and what I expected in the opening paragraphs of the review.
Nimród Antal treats us to a superbly cinematic film showing what a great director he is, some of the shots, even during the action sequence, are extremely cinematic and highly engaging. Combined with the strong lighting and excellent sets, the film certainly looks big budget and matches that casting.
Although some of the huge names in the cast are rather underused and their characters quite flat, they do add something to the story. Dillon and Short are strong and their characters written well, but really it's Antal's directing that comes through the strongest and it's delivered very well on Blu-ray with a excellent picture filled with detail and great use of the audio track.
On the Blu-ray the extras are lacking, and the half-hearted audio commentary is very disappointing. If the director and some more of the stars had appeared then this could have stepped up a notch, but as it is it's still a good disc and worthwhile watching.