So once again we have survived.

Armored

tn_armoredRight now Nimrod Antal is a director-of-interest because they got him doing that PREDATORS movie. And I hadn’t seen his movies (like KONTROLL and VACANCY) but ARMORED is out on DVD this week so I decided to check it out. (And yes, every movie he’s directed so far has a one word title.)

I read somewhere that when Robert Rodriguez saw ARMORED it sealed the deal for Antal doing PREDATORS. I’m not sure what that says, because there’s nothing too wrong with ARMORED, but nothing too right, either.

This is a really cool poster, so they used a different one for the DVD.
This is a cool looking poster, so they made sure to use a generic group shot for the DVD cover.

It’s a real slim one, just over 80 minutes, and most of the plot was in the trailer. Ty (Columbus Short, SAVE THE LAST DANCE 2) is an Iraq war veteran, his parents have recently died, he’s taking care of a teen brother, and close to losing his parents’ house. But he works for an armored car company with his godfather (Matt Dillon), who’s pressuring him to take part in an inside-job armored car robbery.

So it’s got the vague timeliness of a good b-movie: banks foreclosing on houses, stealing from the banks, helping the victims. And it’s a good dramatic setup: he doesn’t want to do it but if he said no he’d have to rat out his recently deceased father’s best friend and lose out on money he sorely needs. I mean, he just doesn’t need this shit right now, but now that he knows about the plan he has no choice but to be involved on one side or the other.

And all this is really setting up for a good action idea, sort of DIE HARD in an armored car. After one of the crew (Laurence Morpheus Fishburne) shoots a witness Ty decides he needs to foil the robbery and locks himself in one of the armored cars. Then he spends most of the movie inside, with the other guys on the outside trying to talk to him or banging on the door hinges, trying to bust their way in. That’s pretty good. Also there are some pretty good chases and a tense scene when a beat cop (who we know eats at the same burger stand as the thieves – it’s a world of laughter, a world of tears) comes to investigate some noises.

So it’s a pretty cool movie in many ways, but most of them are theoretical. Unfortunately the execution is pretty mediocre, starting with the bland casting and writing of the hero. He seems like a good enough guy, but not particularly charismatic, not possessing a more than average amount of screen presence. He’s not real cool or charming or tough, he doesn’t have any funny or memorable lines, I can’t even remember a single character quirk or unusual detail of any kind. He’s just some dude.

And then he spends a good 10-15 minute chunk in the middle of the movie cowering in the car making scaredy cat faces through the window. If they had already established him as an interesting character who the audience is interested in then this could be a real cool DePalmian type of move where Mr. Antal gets the audience attached to him and then pulls back and says okay, now let’s watch from this angle, see how things look different. But no, by this point he has not made much of an impression so instead of a ballsy directorial maneuver it just makes the guy look like a weeny until later in the movie when he starts doing stuff.

The supporting cast is good, but other than Dillon they’re all pretty lightly sketched generic characters. Fishburne is PG-13 Mr. Blonde, Skeet Ulrich (yeah, remember Skeet Ulrich?) is actually not bad as the more hesitant member of the crew, and Jean Reno plays that same Jean Reno character that used to be in every other movie back in the days when Jean Reno was in every other movie.

The younger brother (of course named Jimmy – we also would’ve accepted Timmy) is used as the motive for stealing the money, but they don’t seem to have a good relationship at all, and not just because Ty had no idea Jimmy had been skipping school most of the year. The big scene with the two brothers is when Ty comes home to find Jimmy spraypainting a huge mural of an owl on the kitchen wall. He scolds him appropriately but never acknowledges, even to himself, that it’s a very impressive, better than professional level painting. To do that with spray cans is an incredible talent. But he doesn’t give a shit, he acts like the kid keyed a car or got drunk and threw up on the couch or something.

The owl and the hamburger stand are the only real standout character moments. I like that the movie is quick and to the point, but I think the script needed a little more meat to it, or if not then each of the actors needed to be given a little more room to bring something more to the table (for example they could bring meat to the table). Unfortunately there was no room on the table I guess. It was too small of a table.

The real reason Jimmy is in the movie is not because he’s a painter, or because his brother needs money to raise him properly, he’s there so there’s somebody for the bad guys to kidnap. And I have to say, Matt Dillon is not getting the #1 Godfather mug this year. I’m not sure if he’s godfather to both kids or just to Ty, but either way it’s a dereliction of the duty. It is his responsibility as godparent to take care of Ty now that he has been orphaned, instead he takes his brother hostage and threatens him. Obviously he knows Ty’s dad better than I do, I don’t want to speak for the dead, but in my opinion it is very possible that the dad would be upset about this business and disappointed in his friend. Just my two cents.

It should also be noted that their criminal mastermindery is not much better than their godparenting. Unless they had some genius plan that’s not mentioned in the movie I don’t think they were putting too much thought into how exactly Ty is gonna pay off the house without his company or the police noticing. Hey Ty, I know you’ve been real depressed ever since you guys got mysteriously robbed by those unknown thieves who were never apprehended and the money was never found, but it looks like your luck is turning around, what with you having paid off your mortgage in crisp clean one hundred dollar bills. I’m proud of you, son. I’m gonna give you a raise.

Admittedly, this is a company that has not yet bothered to put GPS in their fucking armored cars (they mention that’s gonna happen on Monday!), so they aren’t exactly what you would consider a licensed or competent company. But I still don’t think the boss would be stupid enough to not make the connection between Ty’s house and the missing loot, and that’s because the boss is Fred Ward. And I gotta give Nimrod Antal credit for this one: when Ward is first shown he has a clipboard in front of his face, and then he lowers it to reveal himself. This is a clear sign that Antal not only thinks Fred Ward is cool, but that he knows there are other people who will be happy to see him and he is pandering to those people by including this shot. So he’s probly a cool guy. Shoulda put Fred Ward in PREDATORS.

ARMORED is a watchable movie, and I will probly give his other ones a shot. But a real standout movie could be made with this basic structure, and this isn’t it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, March 15th, 2010 at 11:16 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

96 Responses to “Armored”

  1. if Predators disappoints I will be PISSED, I just recently watched Predator 1 and 2 on blu ray

  2. I’m glad to hear Remo FUCKING Williams himself is in the movie though

  3. Predators will disappoint, on some level. I read the human brain changes every 7 years. The last Predator was made more than 7 years ago.

  4. I’ve been following Antal ever since I saw his Kontroll (which I found through a Roger Ebert review); and by following, I mean I saw both Vacancy and Armored, neither of which I would have watched otherwise. I’ve been kind of disappointed by both movies–Vacancy is decent, Armored is okay… Both are at least not offensive, so I’ll continue to watch this director’s movies… But frankly I’m hoping for another work like Kontroll, which is a really unique, surreal indie film, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. You’d probably enjoy it, Vern.

  5. I can understand why RR hired Nimrod after ARMORED.

    For better or worse, it wanted to be a Walter Hill type B-macho movie.

    I mean shit ARMORED is almost basically Hill’s TRESPASS, except substitute the good guard from the bad guards trying to get into the bank van with firemen fighting with gangsters over stashed gold.

    Both movies have the same problem. Good premise, good cast, good set-up, and to a degree decent execution. They both though just feel 2/3rds of a glass full, you know? I appreciate Nimrod’s grand limited ambition here, which we don’t get much in our contemporary ADD-riddled action cinema.

    Also I loved that scene when the lower-class hero goes from (rightly) bitching out his brother for painting the mural in the kitchen…to defending his “art creativity” in front of the stuck up middle class bitch.

  6. I live in Hungary and this guy is treated like a national hero here. “A fucking Hungarian directs Predators, holy shit!”. Check out Kontroll, it’s his best film yet, shows Budapest from a very wierd angle. (It has some splastick shit that annoys me, but the photography is awesome.)

  7. I saw this one last week. Very bad script, but the director did a nice job. Predators could be good.

  8. Thought this was a cool idea, but it fell to a weak script, poorly defined characters (did nobody spot the psycho, or does every group have one ?) and the last 1/3 was almost like they realised they were running our of money and thought they better wrap it up.

    I Didn’t think the Director done to bad a job, but there were other areas that should have been addressed.

    Only watched this as it was ‘accidentally’ put on the Playstation network for free one day, though to be honest i was glad i didn’t have to pay for it.

  9. Whoever made the trailer for this movie should be fired. You aren’t supposed to give away every single plot twist in your 2 minute teaser stupid.

    The full length trailer for the new Matt Damon movie Green Zone does the exact same thing. I know who the bad guy is, what the operation is called(the secret one), what he’ll say when he finds out, etc etc etc.

  10. So a mediocre director/producer saw a mediocre movie from a consistently mediocre director and fawned all over it and gave him the job to direct his crappy script of a long-since dead/killed-off franchise.

    Makes sense to me

    Sorry for being bitter but I figured I should be honest here, and I was pretty disappointed with Armored

    I think it’s safe for myself at least to lower my expectations for Predators”
    -it’s a genre picture from Fox studios
    -Nimrod has not directed a movie I fully liked yet (though as RRA said he hasn’t directed a ‘bad’ movie yet either)
    -Rodriguez wrote the script
    -Rodriguez is heavily involved
    -Rodriguez’s special effects company is heavily involved

  11. There actually is an outstanding armoured-car-inside-job robbery picture out there at the moment, but as it is in GERMAN language it is most unlikely to get to a multiplex near you. I already mentioned this in the comments for ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ – and, no, I’m not the film’s publicist or connected with its production in any way – and it is IN THE SHADOWS (Im Schatten) by Thomas Arslan, which is in effect a stripped-down-to-bare-bones remake-of/homage-to HEAT, starring Europe’s next big leading man, Misel Maticevic…

    http://www.theauteurs.com/notebook/posts/1518

  12. Haven’t seen this, but I don’t recommend Vacancy.

    How to say it without spoiling stuff? Well, it was ludicrous. Furthering the plot required the deployment of devices that were impossible for me to believe, and required characters to behave in nonsensical ways.

    Jonathan Mostow took a similar premise a few years ago with Kurt Russell and made a pretty decent B picture. I forget the title of it, but it’s only really similar in the setup — the two movies wind up going in pretty different places, but they spin from the same axis, so to speak. And Mostow’s effort was much better.

    I couldn’t give Vacancy much more than a D.

    What that says about Predators is also hard to say, because I’m not sure how much was the fault of the script and how much was the director — and since the movie thoroughly underwhelmed, I won’t be revisiting it.

  13. Tom – BREAKDOWN was indeed pretty good.

  14. Let me come out in defense of VACANCY. It’s not a great thriller, but it is a solid and worthwhile one, a movie I’d recommend to fans of the genre.

    I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with Tom that the film is a tad ludicrous, but then again so are most horror/thriller type movies. VACANCY may not be an entirely plausible film, but I think it plays fair and sticks to its established rules. Antal’s direction is efficient and has a refreshing clarity of construction, effectively establishing geography and properly setting up the suspense sequences. The writing and the acting are worthy, I was invested enough to give a shit about what happened to the characters.

    RRA’s comparison of ARMORED to TRESPASS is enough to keep me away (I consider it a low point for not just Walter Hill, but Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale as well), but I’m vaguely curious to see what Antal does with PREDATORS. Hopefully Rodriguez won’t stick his fingers in it too much, as I don’t think his goofy, exaggerated style is well suited to the franchise.

  15. “Also I loved that scene when the lower-class hero goes from (rightly) bitching out his brother for painting the mural in the kitchen…to defending his “art creativity” in front of the stuck up middle class bitch.”

    …. played by none other than Ms Lorna Raver (from DRAG ME TO HELL)

  16. Agree on Breakdown.

    Remember not knowing anything about it and jumping up and cheering when Kurt landed a right hook at a key moment. Took me back to the Kurt Russell of Big trouble and The Thing, its a pity he hasn’t really built on that.

    Got that sinking feeling about Predators know after reading some of the comments above. Hope i’m wrong as i loved the first two and still watch them both every so often and the teaser looked better than i expected, in a ‘got me thinking about the first on’. Which is probably the intention after the two versus movies. (I mean for gods sake they make points about the Predator only hunting in hot, violent places in the first two movies and set the two vesus films in Antartica and some big woodland area where it rains a lot. Thats the way to show respect to the original movies that the fans bought into.)

  17. Galat – What’s up with his first name?

  18. Jot – That Mostow I miss, the guy who obviously had a passion and vision for exactly what he wanted. Derivative of earlier, better movies…BREAKDOWN is a mixed-tape of THE VANISHING and DUEL, but fuck its pretty good thriller retake at that. and well, U-571 was a honest to god old school “men on a mission” WW2 action/adventure.

    His last two with T3 and SURROGATES aren’t bad movies. They’re watchable and almsot perfectly sutied for television. But they feel more like big jobs than passion (nerd) plays for him.

  19. Nimrod is an actual name from the Bible. Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah and the founder of Babylon. He was a great hunter, which was what the word meant until Bugs Bunny referred to Elmer Fudd as “poor little Nimrod” and everybody just thought he was calling him an idiot, so that’s what the word means now. Kind of a bummer that this director’s parents didn’t get the memo in time, but that’s what happens when you don’t consult a panel of 12-year-old boys before naming anything. Case in point: http://buygracefoods.com/site/product.cfm?id=cock_soup_env

  20. This film sounds like a prime candidate for the tried-and-trusted De Palma splitscreen.

  21. Wasn’t Skeet in some other armored car movie with Cuba Gooding Jr?

    Wait, it was an ice cream armored truck.

  22. Jareth Cutestory

    March 16th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    The thing I liked about VACANCY was the motive of the antagonists, which I won’t spoil. It was one of those motives that seemed so simple and probable that I wondered why I had never seen it in another horor film. The behaviour of all the characters was typical horror stuff, but I was impressed by the motives.

    I’m not much of a slasher fan, so I’m probably unaware of a whole bunch of movies that had done that already.

  23. RRA – Nimrod is the name of the god of hunting. You can give that name to your kid here. (Although it’s not common, but not unprecedented.) No different from calling your kid David, which comes from the biblical figure. Originally, when Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd Nimrod, that’s why it was supposed to be funny – like saying “nice shot hawkeye” to a bad marksman. For some reason, it lives on as an insult “This guy is such a Nimrod” in the US.

  24. i agree.

    That Mostow showed promise, but like so few that passion and vision looks like it is gone (the shot in the barn with all the bags and belongings made my blood run cold as it dawned on me what must happened before). Now he is just another generic director that the studios turn to when they have a ‘star vehicle’ that needs delivered.

    Although Breakdown wasn’t the most original film ever (what is ?), it had a passion and energy that propelled it through the quieter, unsettling moments. Plus it had the great JT Walsh playing a low key role, full of quiet menace hiding behind the friendly neighbour/farmer appearance. (Compare most of hist screen time with the last 5 minutes when he is totally unhinged)

    He needs to find something to show his passion and ‘voice’ again, not necessarily an indie or low budget movie, but something he believes or not aimed at a studio ‘target market’. U-571 was no Hunt For Red October or Das Boot, but it was never meant to be, just a boys own was adventure that wore its heart on its sleave.

    Although T3 and Surrogates had there moments, they could have been directed by anyone (see McG’s take on Terminator).

  25. I worked on THE CREW of THE SURROGATES and watched Mostow directing (even talked to him a bit after lunch one day): he seemed pretty enthusiastic and committed and wasn’t just going through the motions, as far as I could tell. I was there mostly for the big “world shuts down” finale when Bruce walks through the streets of crashed cars and dead robots, and Mostow was having fun setting up the big shots and making Boston look post-apocalyptic. He also seemed to enjoy working with the actors and playing around with the differances between them as surrogates and their real human selves.

    He was a nice guy, smart (went to Harvard, and was enjoying being back in Boston) and truly grateful when complimented on Breakdown and U-571. I agree, I’d like to see him back to that level of intense, stripped down filmmaking (esp. U-571, which I think is amazing), but, he appears to be pretty happy with what he’s doing….

  26. I get the feeling Nimrod has been very safe as far as his choices in Hollywood so far. He makes movies that are basically single set location films (even Kontroll was set entirely in the subway). He obviously has some chops and has shown he can direct an action scene. Rodriguez is probably impressed with the fact that he’s cost concious. Making big movies for less has always been Rodriguez’s M.O. and he’s starting to operate as a producer so he wanted a likeminded director. I think it will be good especially after hearing about how serious Adrian Brody took it and how much he respects what Arnold did in the original.

  27. Good point about the spray painting, Vern. It actually took me completely out of the movie – A teenage kid who could paint on that level would be truly exceptionally talented, and would have a bright future ahead of him, at least fiscally. That kid could have easily made a living for the family by working as a commercial artist in the advertisement industry. But the film seemed to just treat the painting as some ordinary graffiti by some ordinary kid, which was amusing.

    I liked the film, thought. And I thought the script was smartly written in a very particular way: It was clearly written to be an ultra low-budget movie with minimal cast, minimal locations, repeated use of the same props, cheap-to-stage action sequences, etc. You could film the same script for less than a million. It takes skill and smarts to write a low-budget script like that, which pushes the limited resources as far as they can go.

    But of course, that particular aspect becomes kinda wasted when you have an all-star cast and a budget much bigger than what was ever originally intended by the writer.

    BTW, what the hell was Jean Reno doing in this movie? He had like only a handful of lines and was mostly just standing in the background with nothing to do. It feels weird that he even took the role.

  28. Tuukka – But umm err uhh……the guy was a KID. What you think Mad Men are going to hire him?

    You guys might be just a tad too harsh on ARMORED here.

    And so what if it has a big star cast? It tried to be a throwback to the days when action movies depended on acting and atmosphere to kick ass. Not necessarily just action scenes. And would you agree that Dillon, Fishburne, Reno, and that dude from Prison Break can be good actors?

    Would this point actually come across if say this had been a Steven Seagal DTV vehicle, and the crew were no-name Eastern Europeans hired for the pennies?

  29. RRA – I was merely saying that if this were a low budget movie, people might consider its strengths and weaknesses in a different manner in comparison to what it is now: A medium-budget, all-star vehicle.

    I’m not just referring to comments here, but also to comments I’ve read elsewhere. If this were a low budget, no-star vehicle, people might say “Wow, it was really impressive what these guys achieved” instead of saying “Meh, all the talent and money was kinda wasted here”.

    Everything about the script seemed to be written in order to write an extremely production-effective, tight, simple, fast-to-shoot, low-budget, no-star movie. I don’t know anything about the writer, James V. Simpson, but I know this script was submitted to Nicholl’s screenwriting competition a couple of years ago and it fared well, making the top 10. Which makes me believe even more that the Simpson was trying to write something that could be easily done even by filmmakers with little money – His own personal calling card to the industry.

    As an aspiring filmmaker myself, I thought it was a smartly written script. Not a bad script like some have suggested here. I would love to get the guy write something for myself, because he clearly “gets it” when it comes to making movies on a shoestring budget. It’s not Reservoir Dogs, which is an obvious comparison from a production standpoint, but I think Armored is quite clever for what it is.

    So essentially: I’m not being harsh on Armored, I’m defending it. The cast and the budget didn’t hurt the movie, I just feel they hurted the *reception* of the movie.

    BTW, at least here in Finland kids in their late teens can do work. Seriously: That kid was FUCKING GOOD. Even personally I know people in advertisement industry who would love to give him some work. It’s really, really rare to see kids that good. And he’s still so young that he’s just going to get better and better every year.

  30. Alright fair enough.

  31. Harry on AICN thinks Armored is better than any of the Die Hard sequels.

    No one takes that guy seriously any more right?

  32. I saw that. I believe that Harry’s sincere, but I also believe that his critical sense is like a goldfish with a 7-second memory swimming around in his head, so you can never be sure what he’s going to be totally sincere about from one minute to the next.

  33. Mr. M – Harry is a guy who’s all about in the moment without any sense of context, whether historical or in cinema, when he writes those reviews. How many times afterwards has he written “Well I caught up at the time..”?

    Anyway, I would actually par ARMORED with say DIE HARD 2. Both have some good stuff, but something is missing that keeps me from saying “must watch.”

    the other DIE HARD sequels are much better.

  34. Well I don’t want to bash Harry, but I see no comparison. Even the worst Die Hard sequel (4, or take your pick) has way more going on, not just in terms of scale but between the characters, in the dialogue, in inventiveness of villainous schemes and of course in the excitement of the action scenes. Does anybody really think Columbus Short’s personality free blank of a hero compares to even the weakest dose of John McClane, or that Matt Dillon’s personality or plans are on par with even Olyphant in part 4 (but especially the other two Die Hard sequel villains)?

    Of course, Armored is not trying to be as complicated as a Die Hard movie, and I appreciate the simplicity, but you have to execute that simplicity better than this and you have to do something more interesting with it. I would say it’s more comparable to other forgettable Larry Fishburne movies like the remake of Assault on Precinct 13.

  35. Jareth Cutestory

    March 17th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    “Nurse, I need 10 cc’s of McClane, stat!”

    “But doctor, you’ll send the patient into shock!”

    “Damn it, nurse, he’s dying on the table. It’s our only hope!”

  36. I sort of enjoyed Fishbourne’s 13, until I actually watched the real one, and wow, there is just no comparison. Carpenter’s movie is such a gloriously insane combination fo awesome 70’s grit and awesome 50’s cowboy movies that trying to redo that story as your standard slick studio thriller neuters everything that made it so cool.

    Also, there is simply no topping that score.

  37. Brendan – If you want a kickass AOP13 remake, go check out THE NEST from France, aka THE WASP’S NEST.

  38. The AOP13 remake was a big disappointment for me. I enjoy the original but I do not hold it on some untouchable pedestal that many other movies nerd do and the fact that 13 was hardly an original movie in and of itself, so I was okay with a remake.

    But mostly I was okay with it because I loved the twist of it being the actual police being the bad guys this time. I thought that was novel and thought it that it would make a good action picture.

    Instead I got Training Day II – The Assault On Precinct 13 starring Ethan Hawk’s character from Training Day and Evil Morpheus. I really wanted it to knock it out the park but other than it’s twisting the villain role, there’s not much to it. In fact I’m hard pressed to think of a single thing the remake did better or comparable to the original.

    So I’ll just cut to the chase and say: Yes I’m all for a remake of the remake of AOP13 if it means they’ll do it justice. If that makes a lick of damned sense.

  39. da-DA- duhdadadun
    da-DA!-duhdadadun
    da da da da da. . .
    Oh, that Assault on Precinct 13 score. Sometimes I play it in my head when I walk through doors slowly or check the mag in my firearm while I’m cruising on a mission.
    It’s made my life more awesome.

  40. geoffreyjar – As I already wrote, you should definately check out THE NEST. It wipes its ass with that lame AOP13 “remake.”

    I mean really, why is it in spite of us Americans liking to think the French are pussies….they really crank out alot of usually quite decent at least action movies?

    What’s next, someone in Britain inventing new toothpaste?

  41. RRA

    Yeah I’ll have to check that one out especially if you’re recommending it.

    So… why isn’t Jean Reno in good movies anymore?

  42. geoffreyjar – He follows the paycheck, as Hollywood’s go-to-“French guy.” Why else would a real French fry would bother doing those doozy PINK PANTHER remakes?

    Remember this was the same guy who decided GODZILLA (and its bigger paycheck) was a more worthwhile endeavor than playing Agent Smith in THE MATRIX.

    I shit you not.

  43. Jareth Cutestory

    March 17th, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Geoffreyjar: It could be argued that Jean Reno has always been in awful movies. For every RONIN or LEON we have FRENCH KISS or GODZILLA, for every HOTEL RWANDA we get a PINK PANTHER.

    In fairness, if he had to wait only for movies that are as awesome as he is, he’d only work once each decade.

  44. I was just trying to think of a new topic to talk about to keep the talkback going.

    But with the obvious answer brought up though… A friend and I were talking about this a few weeks ago with actors and being in shit.

    His go-to response is quoting this old John Saxon interview where the interviewer asked him why he only acts in shit (paraphrase) and Saxon responds (paraphrase):

    “I like acting. I’m good at it. It’s my job and I do it for money. So if they are paying

    Where should we stand on such matters? We all love to make a good joke about how Ben Kingsly and Liam Neeson has gone the later-days Laurence Olivier route and just cashes paychecks on their pedigree status while acting in bottom-of-the-barrel drek. Etc. But it is a job to them, sure we’ll do something we don’t want to do in our less glamorous jobs, but we do it so we can get paid.

    How much should we hold against, if anything, actors like Reno & Jackie Chan just making a living while forcing us to remember how awesome he used to be and then we leave crying?

    -RRA, holy shit I heard a ton of casting stories for Matrix (if you remember I’m a big nerd for them) but I never heard that one. Damn, that’s right there with Chow Yun Fat turning down Morpheus for both The Corrupter and Anna & The King and then later saying yes to the Matrix knock off Bulletproof Monk.

  45. geoffreyjar – (1) I don’t mind actors “working,” though I especially tolerate it when they openly admit to jobbing for a paycheck and even joke about it. Olivier did a music video (the song’s name escapes me) making fun of himself. Ben Kingsley similarly in that SOPRANOS episode. And my favorite, Michael Caine* with this classic quote about JAWS: THE REVENGE:

    “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

    How can you hate or even think of sneering at a guy like that?

    (2) My favorite (insane) Matrix casting story was how the Wachowskis’ prefered pick for Neo was Johnny Depp. Which WB automatically rejected because he was “box office poison.”

    BTW, Depp currently has two movies (the PIRATES sequels) that are among the Top 7 biggest hits in history.

    *=Also, he claimed he did Oliver Stone’s THE HAND to buy a new garage.

  46. Buck up, Vern – how many of Armored’s problems were due to the direction vs. the script? I’ve seen all of Antal’s movies, and while he hasn’t drawn out many interesting performances (Frank Whaley in Vacancy might be it), I think he’s got far better visual skills than most young directors. He managed to shoot one armored car pursuing an identical one without it being an incomprehensible Bay-level mess, no? And he throws out super-efficient but non-showy shots regularly; my favorite in this one was the scene ending with Dillon’s rising anger getting repped by a furiously vibrating rear-view mirror. To me, Armored’s biggest shortcomings are on the page. The setup here was lame, overheaping on the reasons to be sympathetic to Short, and prolonging the would-be question as to whether or not he’d go along with the scheme. And the payoffs – I remember Amaury Nolasco’s last scene being awfully convenient, and the final mano-a-mano being resolved by the bad guy being less-than-formidable. I’m not real thrilled that Antal’s doing Predator / working with Rodriguez, but I think the guy has skills specific to cinema in a way that, say, Bruckheimer’s commercials/music video recruits don’t.

  47. Speaking of Michael Caine, who else is as pumped for HARRY BROWN as I am? I know you Brits got the movie a while ago, but it’s finally coming out in the States next month. I personally can’t wait to see Caine get his GET CARTER on again. But I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for these “grizzled old dudes waste motherfuckers what deserve wasting” movies.

  48. Mr. M – Yeah me too. Foywonder reviewed it and sounds like my sorta thing. Especially when he kept making the joke about Caine “shooting people in the face.”

  49. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ll watch any movie where an older leading man with some character in his eyes gets pushed too far and shoots a motherfucker in the face. Nick Nolte, I’m looking in your general direction.

  50. To jump in really late to a discussion here, I recently rewatched the remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 for the first time since it first came out on DVD, and I think it’s damn underrated. I even like it a little more than Carpenter’s original, which is something of a minor classic in my book.

    For one, there’s a precision and clarity to the action that we don’t always get these days. I think this is in part due to the modern-day western vibe it borrows from the original, trying to feel like a cross between RIO BRAVO and a modern action/thriller. So it incorporates wider shots and longer takes than maybe other recent action films.

    But also I like the film’s faithfulness to the subversive spirit of Carpenter’s original. I bet Carpenter wished he had thought of making the bad guys cops, that kind of shit is right up his alley. So then of course we get the sympathetic criminal teaming up with the cop, like in the original, but I also enjoy the touch that Hawke’s character is a drug addict, drug use being another common theme in Carpenter’s films. In Carpenter’s films its usually a sign of which characters we’re supposed to like, but here it’s more of an interesting way to point out Hawke’s fallibility and underline the theme that he’s not so different than some of the criminals, that some of the criminals are really good guys and some of the cops bad, and that the cop/criminal distinction becomes meaningless in this context.

  51. I can’t remember anything of the Precinct 13 remake, except that everytime someone gets shot, we see him lying on the ground, with a small bullet wound on the forehead and some blood starting to drip out of it.

  52. I also think the Precinct 13 remake is underrated. No masterpiece, and it loses the eerie quality of the original by making its villains specific characters rather than urban wraiths, but it’s a serious action film with believable characters and no winky-winky jokes. I’m not saying it’s a great movie but people talk about it like it’s an embarrassment and I don’t think that’s the case.

    There were a fuckload of headshots, though, weren’t there? What was up with that?

  53. I seriously have to re-watch the Precinct 13 remake. I did some digging and not just notcied that I rated it on IMDB with a 7, but it also was #14 in my Top 15 of 2005!

  54. Majestyk,

    Glad to find someone else with good taste who likes it, too. I just don’t get the film’s bad reputation… I was kind of surprised to see Vern describe it as forgettable because it seems right up his alley.

  55. And CJ, you have good taste, too. Sorry I hadn’t seen your post yet when I typed that last one.

  56. No problem Dan. :)
    I just read an old review of Precinct 13, that I wrote back in 2005 on a message board and it’s incredible that I remember so little about it. According to that old review I hated the visual style of the first scene (although I didn’t describe what was wrong with it) and critizised the overall look of the movie for being too much like a TV production (But I noted that it felt like a modern big budget TV show like 24 and not one of the cheap shows of the 90’s.). My biggest problem was apparently that it takes almost 40 minutes until the real story starts, which wouldn’t be a problem if the movie would be longer. But I liked the actors, the unpredictability in terms of surviving characters, mentioned that it has some very good and suspenseful moments and that it’s overall an entertaining movie.
    I think I know which movie I’m gonna watch this weekend.

  57. Yeah that was another thing I meant to mention before with the subversive touches, is that (much like the original and unlike most other action movies) it kills off a few characters you aren’t really expecting to die, or if you are expecting them to die it doesn’t necessarily happen when you thought it would. There’s one character in particular that bites it that you really wouldn’t expect, and its great because then for the rest of the movie it really feels like ANY of the leads could get killed.

  58. RRA – The Nest or Nid de guêpe is a bad movie, better than AOP13 remake but still…

    Armored is a remake of a french-canadian film called Pouvoir Intime. I don’t think it exists in english or subtitled. Because it is an unknown movie even from french-canadian, because, we don’t watch our movies unless there is some stand-up comedians in them. It’s a shame because Pouvoir Intime is an amazing film, a little pretentious a little cheezy sometimes (it was made in 1987) but it is still very good even by today’s standards.

  59. Mr. M/ CJ Holden – that AOP13 remake really comes off as utterly disposable after one sees THE NEST. Of course i’ve built it so big now, I figure you guys may unfortunately inevitably come off as disapointed or whatever shit.

    Dan Prestwich – Honestly I thought those “touches” were rather generic. OK they’re surrounded by bad cops. So what? AOP13 remake did ntohing with that idea beyond your usual movie gang of villains trying to undermine and defeat besieged heroes. It’s fucking ARMORED again. I’m surprised the same standards some of you folks used on ARMORED got slacked on that one.

    And for that matter, Ethan Hawke letting Fisburne go? what Hollywood bullshit. I mean I dig AOP13 the original where after the war is over you assume the hero will let his criminal accomplice go since they buddied up out of self-preservation. But instead the crook badass willingly goes back into custody. Of course he was surrounded by the cavalry of cops who finally came, but still I like that punk touch.

    Also, anyone else didn’t have a problem with all those CGI headshots? 1 or 2 fine, but man they kept coming. And so sterile. When someone’s head gets blown off by a bullet, I want the feeling of being dirty, all that blood and brain matter splattered around. Instead I feel like I just washed my face with alcohol. I believe John Carpenter had the same complaint as well.

    I’ll give the original AOP13 this: That whole urban army, all mindless fanatical junkies, they swarm in droves and don’t worry at all about tossing their lives away in an ogry of violence to serve some cause or because their brains are melted. They’ll rip you in half and hell maybe drink your blood for shits and giggles. Like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to a degree, that fear is more gripping than just corrupt bank van guards or corrupt cops trying to get money or kill whatever.

  60. Munch – Bad? Shit I wish bad movies were that good.

    Why was it bad for you?

    Dan Prestwich – I may come off as a dick here, but wouldn’t your expectations of who might live or die have been tampered by the casting?

    Especially one casted actor, it was one of two movies in 2005 he dies. One by explosions, one by headshot. I wonder if that fact got into his (apparently) angry bridge-burning autobiography.

  61. I’ve seen THE NEST, and I agree that it’s a better Precinct 13 remake than the official Precinct 13 remake. I like both movies, though. I think the concept is awesome enough that they could redo it every few years without running it into the ground.

  62. P.S. I bet if they’d done the remake a few years later in the middle of the torture porn cycle the whole movie would have taken its cues from the infamous ice cream cone scene.

  63. RRA,

    Okay, well THE NEST is going on my instant queue on your suggestion. If and when I ever get around to watching it (hundreds of movies on my queue) I will find this thread and post my thoughts on the AoP13 remake comparison.

  64. BTW, The Nest has an interesting history of popularity here in Germany. It went straight to video and nobody noticed it, but when it had its free TV premiere after a huge sport event, the DVD suddenly sold very well!

  65. And oh shit, it’s by the guy who did HOSTAGE? Why didn’t somebody mention that… that ANOTHER mid 00’s action/thriller that I thought was way underrated. Okay, definitely even more curious about THE NEST now.

  66. The thing about HOSTAGE that freaked me out was that whatshisdick from 30 DAYS OF NIGHT looked like they’d cloned an 18-year-old Brad Douriff.

    Which is not a bad idea, now that I think about it. Dude’s getting old. What are future generations going to do without their go-to source for twitchy southern gothic mega-acting? This is where science could finally come in handy.

  67. You know, I don’t think he got brought up back when everybody was talking about mega-acting, but Ben Foster is a great candidate for rookie of the year. HOSTAGE, 3:10 TO YUMA, ALPHA DOG, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT… the dude’s not even 30 and he’s put together an astounding resume of mega-performances.

  68. Good to know that there is someone else who likes Hostage! I always use it as an example for how a good director can squeeze as much as possible out of a seriously bad script and make a very good movie out of it.
    And there even was the rumor that if Hostage had played better at the international box office, Florent Siri would have been the director of Die Hard 4!

  69. CJ,

    The story is totally ridiculous, but they kind of use that to its advantage… the film is very oddball in a deadpan sort of way, which I appreciate. And good script or not, the film is just so visually slick and engagingly paced that I think it deserves props on at least the technical side of things.

    I also like the bafflingly inappropriate Christian imagery during the final faceoff between Willis and Foster at the end. I don’t know the fuck is going on with that Virgin Mary imagery but it entertains me greatly.

  70. Ben Foster was my pick for the new Freddy Krueger before WATCHMEN came out and the better choice became so obvious that even New Line executives could see it.

    By the way, has anybody noticed that the NIGHTMARE remake looks like the most exact replica since Van Sant’s PSYCHO? They should have just re-released the original with a few CGI shots added in there. Would have been cheaper and I bet it would have made about the same amount of money.

  71. Dan: It’s not that the script is ridiculous, it’s that it only made of overused cliches, like the hero who screwed up earlier in his career or the three teenagers (One is a harmless troublemaker, his younger brother tries to be the voice of reason, but his “new best friend” is a fucking psychopath!).
    But yes, although the whole script was predictable and groan-inducing, Siri seriously knew how to get the maximum out of it. (And it has some awesome firestunts. I love firestunts. Set a stuntperson on fire and I’m one happy viewer!)
    Plus: I love that the gangsterboss, whose face we never see, is in the German version voiced by Thomas Fritsch, one of the three coolest voices of this country. :)

  72. CJ,

    Let’s be fair, it’s a pretty ridiculous script too, what with the interlocking hostage crises, little kid running around willy nilly in the air duct like Newt in ALIENS, teenage carjacker turning into a maniacal pyromaniac killing machine, Kevin Pollack almost dying in one scene and then participating in an action scene five minutes later… it’s not exactly run-of-the-mill, but I like that it plays it all straight.

  73. I remember watching Ben Foster on Flash Forward, one of those “teen shows for preteens” from the 90’s, where he was the lovable curly-haired geek who had a crush on his best friend. To my seven year old brain, such trials and tribulations were what awaited you in the dark land of MIDDLE SCHOOL.

    Imagine my surprise when he started playing a steady stream of psychopaths. I’ll add on to the Hostage love, that movie was formulaic, but was executed extremely well.

  74. OH yeah ,Ben Foster rules. He’s the future of character acting and “Oh I like that guy”

  75. RRA – The Nest was, for me, just a lot of noise. Characters yelling at each other Reservoir Dogs style for no reasons. There was no tension and the yelling and screaming was suppose to had tension and suspense and i just think it didn’t succeed. The actors were very good. I’ll watch it again to give me a fresh perspective on it.

  76. Munch – Honestly RESERVOIR DOGS never came to mind when I saw that. Its almost like we saw two completey different movies.

    Reminds me of that infamous negative review STAR WARS got at its release: “As fresh as last year’s crop reports!”

    What fucking movie did that guy see?

  77. RRA – No Reservoir Dogs doesn’t come to mind, i’m just saying they shout at each other as if….

    Seriously, I saw that movie 7 years ago, i don’t remember it quite well, it came from France with a good reputation so I was expecting something really good and I was disapointed. I watched it with 2 other friends who disliked it even more then I. Anyway I don’t ant to fight over it, i’m willing to give this movie another shot.

  78. I have to disagree with you, Charles.

    B and C-list cast, completely generic-looking style. I never thought much of Arnie outside of the Terminator films, but he was at least an action star. Adrien Brody is too good an actor and too small a star. Giving him the lead in this type of film is baffling.

    Same old monsters and situations we’ve seen in the previous versions, only now with digital splatter. And wasn’t the jungle in the original actually GREEN? What’s this washed-out, desaturated shit?

    I didn’t get so much as a tingle. What is the point, other than to try to squeeze a few more bucks out of this “property”? Why not just watch the original?

  79. frankbooth, your low expectations for Predators is well deserved. It has a better chance of being a steaming pile then something really good, but I think this could be a fun movie. From the trailer I get the impression that they are going to handle the Predators much the way they did in the first film, and stick to the philosophy that less is more. Much like the shark in Jaws we don’t need to see the Predators we only need to know that they are around and can attack at any minute. If they can effectively deliver that tone this could be an enjoyable movie. Also, while I do agree that the casting of Adrien Brody & Topher Grace is a bit of a head scratcher I like the casting of Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, and Oleg Taktarov.

  80. Rodriguez explained the casting of Brody by saying that if you look at the American soldiers in the news, they seriously look more like a slim average Joe, instead of a hardcore bodybuilder like Arnold or Carl Weathers.
    And about Topher Grace: People have to remember that he has seriously gained some punds of muscles after he left That 70’s Show.
    And frankbooth: The trailer says clearly that they are not on earth anymore, so it’s acceptable when the space jungle isn’t really green.

    I think I will wait till the DVD hits, but I gotta admit that it so far looks much more like a serious attempt of reviving the Predator, than the AvP series.

  81. Was Trejo in the first one? Seems like he should have been.

    “Much like the shark in Jaws we don’t need to see the Predators we only need to know that they are around and can attack at any minute.”

    That works in theory, but you can’t go back. We know what they look like now. We know what they do. Unless they play fast and loose with the mythology, I don’t expect many surprises. It’s the reason I gave up on HALLOWEEN sequels. It’s not the fact that it’s a guy in a Shatner mask killing teens that made the first one work.

    You’re approaching it as someone who wants his genre fix, which I can understand. I used to be that way. I’d NEED to see a horror film, and as a result I sat through HELLRAISER 3, ELM STREET 5, CHILD’S PLAY 2, I MADMAN…good God, I saw JAWS: THE REVENGE on the big screen. It was like wanting something sweet — you’re craving gourmet bittersweet Callebaut brownies, but you’ll eat Little Debbies if that’s all you got. Or chocolate syrup on Wonder Bread.

    So if you need to see a Predator movie, this is a Predator movie. Maybe you’ll find a couple of macadamia nuts floating around in the grayish, Play-Doh-like loaf.

  82. I think it looks like it’s got potential. Not psyched about the washed-out color scheme, though. I kind of wish they’d waited a year to start production, because if they were starting it now you know they’d make the colors pop, AVATAR-style. This desaturated shit feels like an aughties thing by this point. Oh well. There’s always PREDATORSES.

  83. The next dude that mocks the name of the director, i’ll call him retard right there and then. I just can’t understand the americans that mock this guy’s name. For a country that claims to be so christian and shit, where 70% of the population professes the faith, that the majority of the posters found in such places as AICN and IMDB are pretty fucking clueless about where the name Nimrod cames from.

    Clue: THE FUCKING BIBLE!! AKA, The Christians’ Own Driving Manual. It’s evne in the more interesting part, the Old Testement, AKA The Bible Part I, the part with all the sex, ultra-violence, battles and special effects.

  84. Speaking of Ben Foster, i saw this movie called PANDORUM with him and Dennis Quaid. Weird ass SF movie… while pretty conventional at the same time. It has this killer concept which, well used, could be made into a whole TV series. Two words: Generational Ships.

  85. According to the director of Pandorum, he has a story for two more sequels, but he now has to wait for the international DVD sales. (A theatrical release is already very unlikely, although the movie did surprisingly well in Russia and Asia.)

  86. The director of PANDORUM still needs to learn the lesson in not to over-edit his movies. I know he’ a new guy, and every new directors out there love to over-edit their movies, but really, too often movies get fucked because of too fast editing. It’s as Steve Soderbergh says, how quaint it is that today movies are faster editen then ever and yet the average time lenght for most movies are 2 hours and more. It truly shows a problem of conception and understanding of the very movie.

  87. I think it has potential. I’m happy that they at least shot them out in some real trees. When I heard it was a Robert Rodriguez Backyard With the Kids production I thought it mind end up being terrible blobby Predator costumes in front of shitty greenscreened pyramids.

    Kind of interesting that the trailer seems more based on ALIEN than PREDATOR. To me the tone is totally different. PREDATOR is more of a comic book. ALIEN is about relatable characters, working class dudes in space who bicker about their paychecks and like to fuck around. PREDATOR is not relatable, it’s a bunch of dudes with enormous muscles literally carrying the cannon off a helicopter, saying one-liners and spending five minutes straight firing seven hundred thousand bullets at some empty trees. Like somebody pointed out to me, ALIEN is very ’70s and PREDATOR is very ’80s.

    So the idea of casting Brody because he’s more realistic is not very PREDATOR. But that’s okay. I think he’s a really good actor and could work well. You can’t compete with Arnold in his territory so you gotta try a different approach.

    Not sure about the yakuza wearing his suit in the middle of the jungle, though.

  88. @RRA

    I just ordered The Nest on dvd from Amazon, only £3.99 too.

    Looking forward to watching it.

  89. If The Nest is that french thriller based on John Carpenter’s AASSULT ON PRECINT 13, aka, Nip De Guepes (translation: The Wasps’ Nest), then that’s a cool movie to get, specially at such cheap prices. It’s one of those movies which are derivative, yes, but done with honesty, it’s clear the filmmakers actually cared for what they were making. And that makes a world of difference.

    As for Predators, i saw the trailer and i can’t say i’m thrilled. Maybe the final result is better then the trailer, who knows? Wouldn’t be the first time. And as for ALIEN like trailers, please, there is only one ALIEN trailer worth mentioning, and that was that very impressionistic one which was only quick shots and an evil music running through it. It inspired the european trailer for THE DESCENT.

    Speaking of THE DESCENT, has Vern ever reviewed it? And if not, why the wait? It’s a whole (pretty) female cast, that alone should raise interest. Damn good movie too.

  90. fyi, ARMORED streams onto Netflix Instant this wednesday, 9/1.

  91. Word. Kontroll’s been streaming for a while. Other than the graphic vomit and the unshakable feeling that the main character never showers, it’s an okay film. It’s definitely got the weird touches (What is that costume about?) and the unexplained cultularisms that Vern tends to like.

  92. Also streaming on wednesday with a whole boatload of shit (via the deals Netflix made with Paramount and Epiz), the first six FRIDAY THE 13TH movies.

    http://feedfliks.com/streaming/coming-soon

    Oh and the werewolf rapist movie THE BEAST WITHIN. Including that and the vampire rape movie BLOODRAYNE, Someone needs to produce a Gillman rapist movie. Just saying.

  93. speaking of rape monsters, BREEDERS also starts streaming tomorrow too.

  94. Finally caught it on Netflix (thanks RRA) – and felt about the same way as I did about Predators and Vacancy – kinda bland, kinda meh. Not bad enough to be “mediocre” but just not as good as it should have been.

    On a related note, SPOILERS – I thought the ending was a giant cop out (while still being predictable). We establish the hero needs the money, probably more than anyone else in the gang. (I think) we establish he’s stealing from the same big bad bank that’s foreclosing on his house. That’s what should make it more important and poignant when he turns on the other guys to save the homeless guy he doesn’t even know. Basic human decency over his own needs kinda stuff.

    But then when he gets the deus ex machina reward at the end to magically save his house, the whole thing just reads hollow. It’s like the end of The Longest Yard remake. The first one was awesome b/c Burt Reynolds did what was right full well knowing he’d get a few extra years in jail. The second one changes it so Adam Sandler will probably get out early b/c the authorities are on to the evil warden. A character’s sacrifice doesn’t mean jack when it’s not really a sacrifice. It’s like there isn’t a coda at the end of Panic Room saying that Forest Whitaker was let out of prison early for turning into a good guy. He’s probably going to spend the rest of his life in jail because he stayed to rescue Jodie Foster instead of running. Which is kind of what makes it awesome, you know?

  95. neal2vod – I might have to agree with you there on the sacrifice bit.

    Of course can one extend that argument to movies where the sacrifices himself but its ok because he/she has a terminal illness?

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