Army of Thieves is an enjoyable diversion with a winning performance from Matthias Schweighöfer and a stunning lack of purpose.
This review of Army of Thieves is spoiler-free.
Matthias Schweighöfer’s Army of Thieves takes place six years before Army of the Dead. It’s a prequel that I’m sure many would question the need for. No longer is Zack Snyder behind the camera. This time Schweighöfer is called up to take the helm. He still gets to work with a script from John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum scribe Shay Hatten that is built on its well-placed sense of humor, action, and a stunning lack of purpose.
Army of Thieves stars Schweighöfer, reprising his role as Ludwig Dieter. An earnest, dorky, incredibly anxious man who happens to be one of the best safecrackers in the world (if you watched any film on the subject, I’m convinced anyone with a good hearing aid can do it). Dieter is like any millennial who has a passion — he needs to put it on YouTube. From there, he is invited to try out for some safe cracking fight club.
This leads him to be hired by Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), a vivacious modern-day Lara Croft type. She wants to hit three of the most impenetrable safes around the world. This all happens around the initial zombie apocalypse outbreak in the United States, but that doesn’t matter. You have to live your life.
Schweighöfer’s direction is assured, and he has a real knack for comedy. He is the sole reason to see the film, as his expanded take on Dieter is very funny and, at the very least, always interesting. Like its main character, the script is refreshingly confident in its own skin. Even the chemistry with Emmanuel is sweet and even borders on adorable.
That’s where Army of Thieves thrives, but its action and backstory are remarkably light on effectiveness. The bank-robbing scenes rely on Dieter looking scared and perplexed in various ways. Even the last robbery attempts to create tension by cracking a safe while moving on a truck that, for unexplained reasons, has to keep moving.
Most of this film will be enjoyable for casual filmgoers, especially fans of the genre. However, it’s all predictable. For example, Stuart Martin’s Brad Cage story of how he got his name is more clever than his trope character of losing the girl to the nerdy guy because of jealousy.
Army of Thieves centers around a supporting character with a winning performance by Schweighöfer and some decent suspense. Which brings us back to the point: What is the point? I mean, other than trying to establish “Netflix Germany” with Schweighöfer’s Bavarian fanbase? The problem here is this leads to a third act with little payoff. Yes, each score isn’t about the money but the journey. The issue is each score is inane and as pointless as the next, but now there are 99% fewer fun, bloodthirsty zombies to watch.
Army of Thieves would have benefited from a much shorter runtime that could have made it a much more enjoyable diversion.