'Army of Thieves' Cracks the Code for a Pretty Decent Heist Movie Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer

Starring Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Jonathan Cohen
'Army of Thieves' Cracks the Code for a Pretty Decent Heist Movie Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer
Army of Thieves is a prequel to Zack Snyder's not-half-bad Army of the Dead from earlier this year. And while that film's zombie apocalypse plays a small role in this follow-up, Army of Thieves tones down the brain-eating in favour of a heist narrative about breaking into super-secure safes in banks across Europe.

Army of the Dead's Matthias Schweighöfer stars, reprising his role as the safe-cracking Ludwig Dieter (a.k.a. Sebastian) while also taking over directorial duties (Snyder is executive producer).

Here, he's recruited by a group of criminals — led by the mysterious love interest Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) — to break into a series of vaults created by a mythical safe-maker, leading to series of heists that are theoretically ultra-difficult (but actually end up going pretty smoothly, all things considered).

It's a classic heist movie in the Ocean's mould, with a gang of criminals filling all the usual roles: the hacker (Ruby O. Fee), the driver (Guz Khan), the muscle (Stuart Martin) and the brains (Emmanuel). But it also suffers from a bit of tonal confusion: the story of the safe-building plays out like a fairytale; the names of characters are presented with splashy, Scott Pilgrim-style graphics; there's a comedic romance without quite enough character development; and then there's the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse, which hints at horror-thriller without fully committing.

It's decently stylish and there's at least one exciting chase scene, plus a decently clever double-fake in the mould of classic heist movies. And perhaps most importantly, Schweighöfer is a loveable protagonist, so even when Army of Thieves isn't perfect, we're still rooting for the criminals to come out on top in the end.

Synder's Army of the Dead universe is soon to get even bigger, with the sequel Planet of the Dead and the anime series Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas both in the works. Given the quality of the films so far, it's probably not worth getting too excited about those follow-ups, but Army of Thieves makes a decent case for the zombieverse's potential. (Netflix)