‘Army of Thieves’ is a prequel to the highly successful zombie heist movie ‘Army of the Dead’ released in 2021. Whilst the first installment for the ‘Army of the Dead’ franchise was helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Zack Snyder, he delegated the directing reigns for the prequel to Matthias Schweighofer. If fans remember, Schweighofer plays the genius safecracker in the first movie, which he reprises in this new entry.
Snyder once more teams up with Shay Hatten to pen the screenplay from a story he crafted himself. In the first chapter, Schweighofer’s character Ludwig sacrificed his life to save Vanderohe; however, he gets a chance to show off his exceptional skills in this feature. Another character reprising their role from the predecessor is Hiroyuki Sanada, who played Bly Tanaka but appears as a still image in movie number two.
Other cast members include Nathalie Emmanuel, best known as the razor-sharp hacker from the ‘Fast and Furious’ saga, and Missadei in the ‘Game of Thrones TV series. She plays a badass jewelry thief in this film. Guz Khan plays the getaway driver; Ruby O. Fee embodies Korina, a willowy bohemian hacker, Stuart Martin takes the part of Brad Cage, a self-named action dude who interestingly resembles an enraged Hugh Jackman, Jonathan Cohen who plays Interpol Agent Delacroix, and Peter Simonischek. ‘Army of Thieves’ is available to stream on Netflix from 29th October. Snyder is determined to make this saga grow as fast and as iconic as possible as a direct sequel, and an anime prequel series are reportedly in the works.
The narrative is set six years before the events of ‘Army of Dead’ during the beginning stages of the zombie apocalypse. It shines a spotlight on the highly excellent safe hacker, Ludwig Dexter. The onset of the events that led to the first movie are still featured, albeit in the background, as the characters seem to be unbothered by the looming apocalypse.
Dieter is a safecracker only in theory, who does the intriguing activity for fun. In real life, he is quite the honest citizen working long hours as a bank teller, constantly insulted by customers, a profession that is utterly boring to him. He spends his time as a loner and posts tutorials on YouTube, which sadly nobody ever watches, well until somebody does and comes knocking.
This new boss is a mysterious woman named Gwendoline, a role by Nathalie. The latter hires the safe genius to aid in pulling off the heist of the century that involves cracking open a sequence of safes that are impossible to access without credentials with the help of a misfit crew consisting of aspiring thieves.
These safes belong to the Ring Cycle category and are named after each of the cycle’s segments. Arranged from the order of difficulty when cracking them, there is the Rheingold, the Valkyrie, the Siegfried, and Twilight of Gods. That last one happens to be the Vegas safe in movie number one. Dieter believes he’s got the skills needed well, after he gets past the idea of seeing himself commit a felony for the first time in his life.
Fans who have already watched the first movie already know that the main character of this second chapter dies in the events that happen. So, the director being the lead character, tries to keep the movie afloat with a light knockabout tone, never trying to make the film into something that it is not.
The script is intelligently pieced together from the heist movie playbook with no attempts to reinvent the genre keeping the plot enjoyable and straightforward, making it an intriguing encounter. Each safe is located in a different city in Europe, so the film jumps from location to location, with Dieter getting more confident and corkier with everyone they crack.
In addition to the various gorgeous shots on the different cities the gang travels across, one thing that is visually and mentally fulfilling is the ins and outs and the nitty gritties of what cracking safe entails. The tiny details in the effects of the mechanics of the craft as Dexter works his magic add a pleasant flair to a process that would rather be considered exhausting and unengaging under normal circumstances. The editing of these scenes, too, is witty and corny, making every moment of it enjoyable.
Schweighofer’s performance is fantastic both in front and behind the camera. ‘Army of Thieves’ is actually the fifth movie this multitalented star has directed, and there is no doubt he’s excellent both in front and behind the scenes. With his hard to resist goofy gimmick that exudes a warm, well-executed performance, audiences are constantly in awe of everything surrounding this star.
He keeps things moving with this decent sense of pacing, timing, and tension-building. The fantastic score crafted by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer blends excellently throughout the film, is expertly and intentionally placed to define the events of the various scenes.
Emmanuel too, brings in some of her rom-com experience for some romance with Schweighofer’s character, which is a bit overstretched for a movie that should feel breezy spanning over two hours. The last act in this feature is a little saggy as the inescapable double-crossing comes to the fore. Honestly, the twists and turns of this film aren’t as brilliant as the writers seem to think.
Something fantastic about ‘Army of Thieves’, though, is an intriguingly doomed melancholy that blankets the film at the very end given the fate of Dieter’s character, which definitely ends the film with a bang.
The glimpses offered of the Zombie invasion are excellent, and they keep reminding the audiences where Dexter’s life is headed soon that he realizes. The walking dead aren’t a threat to the cast at this moment, though, so they serve as a distraction to the heists the crew is pulling behind the scenes.
The aspect of cracking these sophisticated safes is a new twist to the usual heist movie storylines and injects some sort of intrigue into this title. Spending some more time giving the characters some depth would have done the feature justice, though. Nevertheless, ‘Army of Thieves is a fantastic movie to watch and will keep viewers entertained and cultivate anticipation for the next installment, which is already in development.