Monday, May 24, 2010

Armored -- sinful brothers, Christian killers

Director: Nimród Antal, 2009. (PG-13)

Armored is a man's movie. Bleak and brutal, the violence and armored car chase will appeal more to men. But that is not my point. The plain fact is that there is only one woman with a speaking role in this film, and she is a nameless social worker who appears on screen for less than 4 minutes of this 88 minute B-movie.

This female social worker shows up at the home of Ty Hackett (Columbus Short), our protagonist, ready to commit Ty's younger brother to foster care. Ty, a decorated veteran of the Iraq war, is really down on his luck. He is the legal guardian to his brother, as their parents died recently. With their death he inherited a mountain of debt and he is receiving foreclosure notices from his bank. His kid brother is skipping school and spray painting the kitchen. He almost visibly buckles under the weight of these things.

Ty is training to be a guard with Eagle Shield Security, manning the armored cars that transport cash between banks. Under the mentoring of his godfather Mike (Matt Dillon), he is fitting in with this group of "tough guys." An early scene shows these two and four other guards, including Quinn (Jean Reno, Jet Lag) and Baines (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix) drinking together in a bar after a typical male-bonding prank. Ty is clearly struggling with his killing deeds in Iraq, but to the others, especially Baines, this is a badge of manhood.

The first act portrays a picture of the brotherhood of workers, especially those in a dangerous occupation where they must depend on one another. They are a band of brothers. Ty's own family is gone; they are a replacement, with Mike acting as a surrogate father. Their easy bantering displays a camaraderie that most men want. We are made for this. We need family, we need friends. Often we need to blow off some steam and we do this with other men in story-telling and mock competition, sometimes over beer or coffee. The writer of Proverbs understands this, and tells us, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Prov. 17:17). Friends we often refer to as brothers are those who we can turn to when we are in need or desperate.

So when Ty is desperate, with foreclosure looming and foster care for his brother hanging over his head, he turns to Mike. And Mike has a plan. He and the other 4 friends are planning to rob two of the armored trucks the next day. With the bi-annual alignment of schedules they will be transporting $42M, enough to share and solve Ty's problems . . . . if he will join them. Despite misgivings, after all Ty is supposedly a fundamentally honest man, he commits to this plan on the condition that no one will get hurt.

As act two gets underway, the robbery occurs but plans get compromised and things start to go south in a hurry. With half the money hidden and the other half left in one of the trucks, Ty's conscience kicks in and he locks himself in the second truck. He has separated himself from the rest of the gang, and they are not prepared to accept this. The remainder of the film deals with this Mexican-standoff of sorts.

This "family" of Ty's slowly and surely turns in on itself and disintegrates. Greed is the culprit. Wanting the money and wanting escape, they cannot see beyond violence to accomplish their ends. Sin is like this. Once we have embraced sin, a simple lie here, a minor theft there, our character is compromised and sins start to accumulate. Mike's undying love and concern for Ty transforms into concern to see Ty die. He does not care for his "friend"; he only cares for his money. The apostle Paul said, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character' " (1 Cor. 15:33). When we hang around with the wrong crowd, as Ty did, they will seek to seduce us to their view and their values. He was almost carried away by his "friends" into a felonious sin, but saw the light early enough.

Armored is a short and easily forgettable film. The characters are not overly developed and the plot is full of holes. The criminals' plans seem almost ludicrous; how would they really get away with their scheme? And to throw the idea at Ty the night before the heist is simply implausible. There are some moments of excitement, but this is a film for switching off the brain or locking it away in the armored truck of our cranium until the credits roll.

One character, Palmer (Amaury Nolasco), appears to be a Christian. He is seen reading his Bible and praying. Yet he is enthusiastically amongst the thieves. And it gets worse. Like Judas (Lk. 22:48) he betrays his friend, silently thrusting the dagger into another, making him a thief and a killer. Is this a caricature? Can a person be a Christian killer? Or is this an oxymoron?

We remember that the apostle Paul (when he was named Saul) himself was a killer, or accomplice (Acts 8:1). But that was before he met Jesus (Acts 9:3). After his encounter he was a changed man, who suffered more than most apostles (2 Cor. 11:23-29) in his desire to preach the gospel of forgiveness to the unreached world. A person like Paul, a follower of Jesus, is one who has been touched by grace. He has experienced God's love. How can such a person choose in cold-blood to murder another human being? Jesus said his followers are characterized by love (Jn. 13:35), not murder, hate, lust, greed, or other sinful desires. We are known by our fruit (Jn. 15:8). Palmer's fruit was obvious. He was a killer, not a lover. What is your fruit like?

Copyright ©2010, Martin Baggs

No comments:

Post a Comment