Army of Thieves, prequel to Zach Snyder’s Army of the Dead, focuses on beloved, quirky safecracker Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) as he joins a group of thieves to open a trio of safes across Europe. Matthias Schweighöfer directs the film, and Shay Hatten writes the screenplay. Visually, Army of Thieves nails it, and I love the mystery of Hans Wagner’s four safes; the direction is good, but the pacing, dialogue and plot, lack depth and comedic timing. So Army of Thieves is a mix, and it will depend on what the viewer values most.
The film opens with Dieter recording a Youtube video discussing the topic, including the legendary four safes, crafted by Hans Wagner and based on Richard Wagner’s four Ring operas. The four safes are the Das Rheingold, Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), the Siegfried, and the Götterdämmerung. After which, he goes through his mundane day-to-day routine, complete with a desk job. Then Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) sends him a Youtube comment inviting him to test his safecracking skills. After which, he teams up with Gwendoline and her crew to open Hans Wagner’s first three safes.
Banal Dialogue/Characters Underdeveloped
Sometimes prequels are pointless. After all, we know what happens to Dieter’s character in Army of the Dead (though I’m still hoping I’m wrong). While Dieter is one of my favorite characters, what worked in Army of the Dead was Dieter’s bromance with Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick). Dieter’s geekiness and warmth playing off Vanderohe’s austere, beleaguered babysitter attitude made the comedy. In Army of Thieves, there is no one performing that part, at least not effectively. The dialogue is more an attempt at humor than comedy.
There are no zombies to distract from the plot or characters. Conflict feels contrived rather than a natural progression of the story and characters. An Interpol agent, Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), is hunting the crew down because he’s pissed about being shot in the ass. The bullet did not even hit him since his flask blocked it. I guess Delacroix’s flask meant so much to him that he must avenge its death—dent. Gwendoline’s “sob story” is that her family was wealthy, so she left when she was 17.
Still Worth A View
The acting is good. Despite bland dialogue and shallow story, Matthias Schweighöfer delivers here. As evidenced in Game of Thrones and the Fast and Furious franchise, Nathalie Emmanuel has comedic ability. Their funniest moments here are sans dialogue when their expressions build the humor. The script weighs them down, but the actors pull through to varying degrees. Dieter is still funny. Gwendoline, Korina, and Rolph (Guz Khan) still kept the story moving somewhat, though the latter two deserved more time on screen.
Army of Thieves is similar to its predecessor, and I love seeing the tumblers inside as Dieter works on the safes. I’m also a fan of heist films that deal with cracking safes or hacking. The directing was essentially great, the scenes felt lively, and the music adds to that. Hans Zimmer still does a great job composing soundtracks. Thanks to Zimmer’s music, the ending hit me in my feels for a film that felt like something to pass the time. Fight sequences are the only section that felt lacking due to edits.
Army of Thieves is not as entertaining as its zombie elder, but if you’re a fan of heist films, I’d recommend it. For me, it’s entertaining, and Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro’s score did some heavy lifting, especially towards the end.