The origins of the master safecracker from the first film are explored in this globetrotting trip across Europe with a team of expert thieves.
So, who would have thought it, here we have a prequel to the chaotic zombie film that came out earlier this year – it didn’t take them long to expand this… questionable franchise, did it? It follows the German safe cracker from the previous film and the origins of his criminal career before the zombie outbreak has reached mainland Europe. It’s an odd choice to focus on this character instead of other, more prominent figures, like big Dave Bautista, but that’s just me. However, with Matthias Schweighöfer directing the film (which answers by previous question of why), then why not offer up a change of pace to Snyder’s original, whilst also trying to not defer away too much from the franchise’s narrative.
This addition to the “Army” franchise, a franchise that is set during a zombie apocalypse, annoyingly features little to no zombies, they are merely seen in dream sequences and could just as easily have been left out as they had no impact whatsoever. This means it was very different to its predecessor in terms of its plot – the zombie outbreak is just a news story from across the pond – but it did share a certain charm and awkward wittiness with the previous film – even if the humour was super cheesy, but that good cheese that doesn’t stink your fridge out quite yet.
I wouldn’t be far off the mark by calling ”Army of Thieves” a BTEC version of the ”Ocean” films; a cheap imitation of those stylish Soderbergh films. It didn’t have the alluring characters of those films, it lacked that cool air breeze that washes over them as well, the debonairness was missing, it even alluded to the fact heist films usually show how the robbery will take place, step by step – much like the Ocean films – now isn’t that clever and not predictable at all.
So, onwards with the plot; ”Army of the Dead” is the story of Ludwig Dieter/Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert (a mouthful I know), the German safecracker from the previous film as he delves into his career as a master lockpicker. A mysterious woman called Gwendoline Star (Nathalie Emmanuel) recruits the blonde-haired bank teller – who impresses her with his fast hands – into her gang of merry misfits, with the aim of travelling around Europe and breaking into the sacred vaults of Hans Wagner, collecting the loot from within. Within the team is tech expert Korina Dominguez (Ruby O. Fee), action man parody Brad Cage (Stuart Martin) and getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan). The group attempt to become legends of the criminal underworld whilst being chased by Interpol agents, and we find out how Ludwig ends up in the zombie riddled United States.
Although the characters in ”Army of Thieves” are not very memorable, the performances from some were enough to carry this film on a steady enough level. The performances from Emmanuel and Schweighöfer were standouts, and their chemistry was there to see. Ruby O. Fee as Korina is also worth recognition; sharp tongued, quick witted, and dangerously glamourous, perfect for a supposed sexy heist film. With that though, I can’t help but be bugged by this supposed action films lack of action – just like those fleeting zombies – there was little to none. Now, I understand that this is going down a different route, but these cheesy action flicks need something gripping to grab our attention, what we got was a man cracking unbreakable safes very easily – he basically walks up to the door and pulls the handle.
This is a film that didn’t really need to happen, we are no better or worse for having seen it. It isn’t terribly memorable, and you probably wouldn’t recommend it to your friends (although I can’t speak for everyone) but it was somewhat enjoyable enough to watch on your own for a bit of after work unwinding. The only thing to do is compare it to its predecessor, and on that note – it is just an okay prequel to an okay first film. Neither of them is ground-breaking, they were never supposed to reinvent the heist film genre, but what the first film lacked this one had, and vice versa. This franchise isn’t going anywhere fast, so let’s buckle ourselves in for the next installment, and by going off the fact these two came out in the same year, I’m going to say that we only have to wait around 6-8 months for the next one.
Army of Thieves is available to watch on Netflix now.