ARMY OF THIEVES (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: In this prequel to Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead, small-town bank teller Dieter gets drawn into the adventure of a lifetime when a mysterious woman recruits him to join a crew of Interpol’s most wanted criminals, attempting to heist a sequence of legendary, impossible-to-crack safes across Europe. After Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) suffers a loss, a battle with a territorial bird (the Starling) over dominion of her garden provides an unlikely avenue for her grief and the courage to heal her relationships and rediscover her capacity for love.
Army of Thieves is the official prequel to the Zack Synder’s zombie flick, Army of the Dead. However, instead of another gory zombie actioner, we have a heist comedy flick starring and directed by Matthias Schweighofer, the breakout star from Army of the Dead.
Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert before he is turned into Ludwig Dieter is living a mundane life as a bank teller. His only hobby it seems is posting videos about safecracking online. This attracts no viewers except the attention of international wanted criminal Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel) who invites Sebastian on a heist to break into three intricate safes built by legendary safe designer Han Wagner (entirely fictitious by the way).
Sebastian of course is intrigued with Gwendoline’s offer. Thus, he decides to join her team which consists of muscleman Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee) and getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan). Not knowing their crime is soon going to attract the attention of Interpol agent Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), the gang begins to plan for their first heist which is scheduled to take place in a credit union in Paris.
The story by Zack Synder and Shay Hatten is a popcorn crowd pleaser that is surprisingly lightweight with the stakes pretty low for a heist movie. Rather than introducing a series of complex plotting, car chases or insane amount of CGI, Schweighofer kept things pretty grounded mostly. Relying on his sizzling chemistry between his co-stars Nathalie Emmanuel and his real-life partner, Ruby O. Fee, Schweighofer manages to showcase the cast performances effortlessly with the bulk of it owing to his likeable character.
For a movie that is set up in a universe where zombies exist, it’s more of an unnecessarily gimmick or distraction consider that Sebastian has lots on his hands to worry about than zombies which at the moment are still stuck in Las Vegas. There’s the usual betrayal by fellow team mates, law enforcers on the trail and gulp, a hot romance brewing, there’s really not much screentime left to worry about Zynder’s zombies.
Still, Army of Thieves can be a tad too long at slightly over two hours. With the exception of the first heist which had most of the members playing to their strength, the rest of the heists lack the high energy and tension with mainly the scenes solely focusing on Sebastian stretching his fingers and cracking the safe. Because simply put, there’s only so much fun in watching someone turning the dial constantly, listening to a safe and people screaming round him.
There’s supposedly a larger universe planned for Army of the Dead and this is just one of them. We heard a sequel is more or less confirmed for the former. For now, Army of Thieves is an enjoyable romp without the gore and violence seen in the Synder’s flick.
Review by Linus Tee