Cast your mind back to May and you will recall the release of Army of the Dead – the big budget zombie movie from director Zack Snyder. The film focused on a rag-tag group of mercenaries, tasked with stealing a large sum of money from a vault in a zombie-infested Las Vegas, and it was a heck of a lot of fun.
Army of the Dead was conceived as the first entry in a new movie universe, and today sees the release of the next instalment: Army of Thieves. The movie – which is a prequel to Army of the Dead – focuses on the backstory of safecracker Ludwig Dieter, who played a significant role in that first movie.
Directed by and starring Matthias Schweighöfer, Army of Thieves takes place shortly before the events of its predecessor, and follows Dieter – who is going by the name of Sebastian – as he is recruited to take part in a heist in Germany. His task is to break into three seemingly impenetrable safes, before they are transported to the US, where they will be decommissioned.
Sebastian joins forces with a team of thieves who all have a special set of skills and has four days to complete the job. Meanwhile, as he goes to work, a zombie outbreak is taking place in the US, and the future of his own mortality plays heavy on his mind.
Army of Thieves stars Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, and Christian Steyer. The movie is available to stream on Netflix from today, and whether you are familiar with Army of the Dead or not, Army of Thieves is an easily accessible instalment.
With Army of Thieves being set out as a prequel, the film is not a zombie-infused horror picture. There are nods and references to what is to come with Army of the Dead, but it’s important to be clear, this movie is not a horror film.
Army of Thieves is an action crime comedy. The movie focuses almost entirely on the safe heists, with Sebastian (aka Ludwig Dieter) front and centre of the entire picture.
In terms of its presentation, the film looks stylish and features strong cinematography. It boasts a wonderful set design, excellent costuming, and a solid performance from Matthias Schweighöfer as Sebastian.
But Army of Thieves doesn’t have the same flair as its predecessor. The script is a little light in places, the cast of characters aren’t as memorable, and without some of the bombastic touches of the former movie, those who are expecting more of the same will feel a little short changed.
This isn’t to say it is a bad movie – far from it in fact – but it doesn’t quite hit the heights that it should. All of the components are here for an excellent picture, and yet it doesn’t achieve that status.
The main flaw with the movie is that it contains too many scenes of exposition and not enough action. The film spends a fair bit of time talking about everything, rather than getting down to business, and for large parts of the story, the action seems somewhat lacking.
I kept willing the movie to push itself a little harder, and yet it never quite did. It took a good hour before the energy and excitement of the heists really started to kick in, and even then, it still felt a little flat.
The humour didn’t land right either. The film seems to go to good lengths to tell the audience this is a quirky story about quirky people, and yet this doesn’t come across organically.
On the plus side, and as mentioned above, this film looks great. The movie benefits from some strong visuals, and is a delight on the eyes.
But the real ace up the sleeve is Matthias Schweighöfer. He understands his character inside and out, and is the strongest component of this entire picture.
Of all the characters to be lifted from Army of the Dead for a prequel story, Sebastian/Ludwig Dieter wouldn’t have been at the top of my list. The character was fun in the previous film, but I could think of two or three other characters I would have opted for instead.
However, Schweighöfer makes it clear why this guy was chosen. He is fun to watch, has a likeable personality, and steals every scene he is in.
It’s just a shame then that as director of this picture, Schweighöfer couldn’t manage to draw these same qualities out of the rest of the cast. He ensures his character is great, but everyone else pales in comparison.
Overall, Army of Thieves is an OK movie, and has a lot going for it, but it doesn’t live up to its potential. It won’t satisfy fans of Army of the Dead, and it may not provide enough excitement for newcomers either.
But this film is watchable. There’s just enough going on in here to work, and the stronger elements are certainly worth giving it a viewing.
Following my positive experience with Army of the Dead, I had hoped for something dynamic with this new movie and while I didn’t get it, I am still on board for more instalments from this franchise. And if these instalments include Schweighöfer, then I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to coming back again.