Reel Reviews | Army of Thieves

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Zack Snyder’s zombie film becomes a franchise with a new prequel about the origin of Dieter the safecracker in, Army of Thieves.

Uploading unwatched videos about the history of safes and getting his morning coffee, Sebastian (Matthias Schweighofer) is just existing as a bank teller in Germany until one day he receives a weird invitation to an underground club.  When he cluelessly arrives at the club, he finds that he has been anonymously entered into a safecracking competition which he wins.  Sebastian discovers that he has been entered into the competition by internationally wanted and incredibly beautiful criminal Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) as a tryout to join her gang.  Overjoyed, Sebastian receives even greater news when he is informed that he will have the monumental job of cracking the famous “Ring of Fire” set of safes of which he has been devotedly searching.  Emotionally all in, Sebastian decides to join Gwendoline’s crew and go on a European tour featuring the most difficult set of bank heists in a lifetime.  By the way, there seems to be a zombie outbreak starting in the United States at the same time.  No worries, right?

Written by Zack Snyder and Shay Hatten, Army of Thieves is an action prequel to Snyder’s Army of the Dead which came out earlier this year.  This adventure stars Schweighofer and Emmanuel and Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, and Jonathan Cohen.  Schweighofer, who plays the character that comes to be known as “Dieter,” also directs the movie.

At 41, Matthias Schweighofer is a well-recognized, veteran actor from Germany.  He was over 70 acting credits to his name in just over twenty years in the business.  His biggest film, prior to the Army series, may have been the madcap family comedy, The Manny where he played a successful businessman who unwittingly hires a revenge-driven man to be the nanny for his children.  Schweighofer wrote (with others), starred in, and directed the feature.  Not having nearly as much experience in directing as acting, it was surprising that he was tapped for this film.  However, the story of the film fits right into Matthias’ wheelhouse. 

Underneath it all, the story is just a classic tale of the loser trying to get the girl.  Sebastian is the super-smart, lovable geek and Gwendoline is the insanely hot girl that is way out of the geek’s league.  Yet the movie makes you root for the guy to beat out the bully, Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), and get the love of the girl.  The bad part is that because this film is a prequel, the stakes and the hyped-up romance are all a little flat because we know how and where Dieter ends up.  The only real interesting part of the story is really how Sebastian becomes “Dieter.”

Army of Thieves is really just a large piece of eye candy.  What better eye candy is there than the gorgeous Nathalie Emmanuel, who many know as the hacker Ramsay from the Fast and Furious series.  If nothing else, watching Emmanuel slide across the screen in almost every scene, is enough reason for anyone to watch this film.  She oozes sensuality and power in every shot.  Seeing her almost makes up for what the film is lacking.  Reality.

In this world of shows like Money Heist that glamorize the international bank-robbing scheme, the idea of a bunch of rich kids just touring Europe breaking into the hardest safes in the world just for the prestige is ridiculous.  Gwendolyn, the leader of the pack, says there is no desire to actually take all money once they have broken into the safes because they just want the recognition.  It makes one agree with a character in the movie who asks why they should care about the robbers when there is a world apocalypse happening.  But guess what?  Who wants reality in their action-comedy?

Rated TV-MA for violence and gore and profanity, Army of Thieves is a large roll of cotton candy.  It looks cool and is really sweet but has absolutely no substance.  It’s an entertaining prequel and nothing more.

Army of Thieves can be seen on Netflix. 

Grade:  C