Army of Thieves, 2021.
Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer.
Starring Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Jonathan Cohen.
A reclusive bank teller becomes part of a motley crew composed of Interpol’s most wanted, targeting a series of a uncrackable safes across Europe.
I guess one can say that this is the quasi-prequel film that no one asked for, but when you marry uber-geek god Zack Snyder to a streaming giant like Netflix there’s bound to be repercussions. The second outing in this fledgling Army of the Dead-verse sees the backstory of Ludwig Dieter, the skilful safecracker featured in the zombie heist flick released a few months prior.
Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) whose real, unpronounceable name is Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert, is a timid small-town bank teller in Potsdam maintaining a not-so-secret hobby of safecracking which he enthusiastically uploads on YouTube. Through it, a mysterious figure contacts Dieter and invites him to an underground safecracking tournament taking place in Berlin. Following Dieter’s comfortable win in the competition he finally meets the enigmatic Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) who introduces our timid bean-counter to the world of high-stake heists. The rest of the crew saddling up with Dieter are composed of wunderkind hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee), getaway driver cum ace drifter Rolph (Guz Khan) and douchey strongman Brad (Stuart Martin). While the ladies of the gang warm up to their new addition, Brad and Rolph have reservations about Gwendoline’s choice. Dieter however, quickly proves them wrong when their heist in Paris goes smoothly, but with each successive robbery their challenges exponentially increase leading to unforeseeable outcomes.
Being unacquainted with Schweighöfer’s previous directorial efforts it’s hard for me to comment if his style is present or absent in this film, but one thing is certain- Snyder’s trademark visual flair is. Just think of Army of Thieves as a less serious, comedy-centric Zack Snyder flick, ‘cos for the most part, that’s what it is. But in this instance, it works in the movie’s favour since it’s supposed to be a prequel to Army of the Dead, so in a visual sense, a continuity of sorts is maintained. Looking past Schweighöfer’s Snyder mimicry skills, he does do a commendable job with some of the characters but not all, and part of the blame falls on Shay Hatten’s formulaic script. While the scenes involving Emmanuel, O. Fee and Schweighöfer entertain in spades, the sequences concerning the other performers -especially Jonathan Cohen’s Delacroix – only induce cringe. Thinly written and largely forgettable, these bland caricature characters threaten to derail the whole project, but Schweighöfer’s fish-out-of-water schtick and Emmanuel’s effortless charm steadies the ship. The sultry Game of Thrones alum is so captivating onscreen she nearly steals Schweighöfer’s thunder every time she appeared.
The score composed by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro is appropriately infectious and breezy as befitting a heist action-comedy, while DOP Bernard Jasper’s cinematography is also on point, acting as a bridge to Snyder’s Army of the Dead visually. Lastly a special mention of the man responsible for imbuing three inanimate safes with a rich history and their own distinct character, Christian Eisele the film’s production designer. Bravo, you’ve outdone yourself man.
Army of Thieves functions as a pastiche of superior heist films from yesteryear, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun or entertaining in the best ways possible. So, turn off your brains, embrace the ridiculousness and simply enjoy yourselves.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.