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The heist men cometh

There may be no longer any mystery as to how the gang robs the safe (Ocean's 11), steals the gold (The Italian Job) or takes the picture (The Thomas Crown Affair), yet reruns of these heist movies remain endlessly popular and continue to spawn modern re-makes.

The heist movie usually involves a jovial gang of male criminals plotting to rob something or someone, and managing to pull it off with varying degrees of success and plenty of wisecracks.

The latest flick from Sony pictures, Armored, puts a slightly new spin on the old genre, as it assembles an all-star cast for an inside job on an armoured truck service.

Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne and Skeet Ulrich star as guards at Eagle Shield Security, who plot to rob their employers along with new recruit Ty (newcomer Columbus Short).

Each of the guards has a different reason for taking part in the heist. None of them are really baddies at the outset, but their 'foolproof' plan unravels and they turn against each other.

Dynamic

"Armored has a lot of action in it, but it's essentially character-driven," says Matt Dillon. "Each of the characters is very specific with a distinct personality and way of reacting under pressure. When I saw the dynamic coming together, it felt like a classic crime picture."

The film centres on Ty Hackett (Short), who returns from active duty in Iraq, after the death of his parents, to find a stack of unpaid bills, as well as now being responsible for his 14-year-old brother.

Aware he needs to pay the mortgage, he signs up to be a guard at the armoured car service his father worked for and under the tutelage of his godfather, Michael Cochrone (Dillon), Ty trains for his dangerous new career. When his probation comes to an end, his co-workers take him out for a few beers and the conversation drifts to failed robberies and successful heists. It's only on the drive home that Cochrone reveals to Ty his plan to steal $42m -- the next truckload of cash.

Columbus Short, whose credits include Cadillac Records, says he fought hard to land the role of Ty in "a very smart movie".

"It juxtaposes drama and action in a believable way. There are plenty of rock 'em, shock 'em, blow 'em up moments, as well as emotionally intense scenes," says Short (27).

Amazing

"And nobody's really seen the life of these armoured truck drivers before. It's an amazing world."

Sadly for the cast, which also includes Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia, they couldn't really explore that secretive world in preparation.

"I've been able to [tag along] when I've played a cop," says Dillon, who played a police officer in Crash, "but they weren't going to let us ride along in an armoured car."

But when it came to the stunt truck chases, the actors were only too involved.

"I was really involved -- I was in the passenger seat," says Short, with a laugh.

Stunt

"We didn't do the big stunt stuff obviously, we did a little bit of driving, but we were actually in the truck for a lot of the interior shots with the stunt guys on top," adds 45-year-old Dillon. "They could drive the trucks from on top of the roof. It was kind of like being on a ride," he grins.

Unlike many action movies which have a token heroine as a plot device, Armored has an all-male cast.

"It was a different dynamic [on set]," Dillon admits. "This was a very testosterone-heavy film, but it was a good group of guys. There was a real camaraderie that we all felt and so by the end of the film, when all that breaks down, it's grounded in something, it's very real."

Armored is released on Friday, January 22