A loosely based prequel to Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead (2021), this heist thriller falls disappointingly short of already low expectations…. 2/5
The plot: Army of Thieves revolves around one of the most likable characters of Army of the Dead, Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert, the lovable eccentric safe-cracker thrust into the chaos of the zombie apocalypse. But in this film there is no zombie apocalypse, at least not yet – it’s set in Europe far away from Las Vegas where camera crews and news stations are reporting small clips of footage about the undead situation in the city of sin. Instead, the focus of the film is around Sebastian joining a heist team and going around Europe cracking into three very specific bank safes which have all been designed by a master craftsman of said safes. Sebastian has to prove himself worthy of joining the team, take part in elaborate far fetched heist scenarios and avoid the guaranteed double crossing that comes with any self respecting heist film. He has to do all this with a very angry INTERPOL agent chasing the team’s every move and creating more issues for them to overcome. Put all this together and you do not have a zombie prequel movie, you have a very average heist movie.
So where are the zombies: This is where Army of Thieves fails, the lack of a strong tangible link with the original film. It tries to stand by itself and ultimately just disappoints the viewer in doing so. Would this film be better if it wasn’t at all linked to the original? No. Would it be worse? No. And that there is the issue, it makes zero difference to the viewer. Instead, we are shown occasional news clips of zombies and Sebastian has occasional nightmares of zombies which also have zero meaning or impact on him. It just doesn’t add anything, it’s almost like Snyder and Schweighöfer wanted an excuse to write a heist movie without any zombies.
I’m not saying that I wanted the film to explore the outbreak of the apocalypse in Vegas, that’s been done to death with Fear The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Kingdom and most other zombie films / prequels. But I would have liked more. Maybe this master craftsman could be linked to the security vaults which stored the original zombie in, maybe the situation in Vegas could have affected the heists more. Just give us something.
Clichés without shame: Army of Thieves is filled with clichés, occasionally it nearly breaks the fourth wall by characters admitting this and pointing out how their heists are moving along exactly like a heist movie’s plot would but it lacks any real charm. Lets go through the heist checklist shall we?
New member of the group is found online by a mysterious benefactor and has to pass a test before joining the team? Check. The team starts off with an “easy” heist to warm them up? Check. During the second heist the team are overconfident and something inevitably goes wrong? Check. Double-cross? Check. Police officer / detective way too involved and obsessed with finding them? Check. Escape scene on a boat over a nice lake? Check.
Due to this the film is naturally predictable and offers little to no *gasp* moments.
A good cast: Despite the films flaws, the acting was perfectly fine. Matthias Schweighöfer continues to break through onto US and British screens and adds his refreshing and genuinely enjoyable quirks with him. Matthias gets his character spot on and brings the majority of humour to the film with his high pitched screams and ineptitude in physical confrontations. Although he did co-write the movie so I won’t go wild on my praise for him. It was great to see Nathalie Emmanuel in a major role and nice to see her as something other than Emelia Clarke’s handmaiden. She provided a serious tone when needed and during her fight scenes she was a complete badass. My absolute delight in seeing Guz Khan on screen was dampened when with each passing moment he got less and less screen time. Guz is one of the best upcoming British comics and I expect to see more of him in the future. Guz wouldn’t have been able to save this film with more screen time, but he would have made it a lot more enjoyable.
A background film: Sadly that will be my ultimate conclusion for this film, it’s easy to watch and you really don’t have to be paying attention. I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it. Perfect for hangovers or something on whilst you’re doing the washing up. I didn’t expect to watch a masterpiece when I started this film, but I thought it would have some kind of edge to it and it just fell flat and meaningless. Hopefully the third instalment to this franchise, Planet of the Dead, which has been confirmed, will be better.
To watch or not to watch: Don’t watch.
Can I stream it: Yes – Netflix
Child friendly: Yes – minimal gore and very few scary scenes.
Can I watch this with my parents: Yes – it’s completely safe.