“Sir, why do we bother with this when there’s a zombie apocalypse?” Asks a sheepish detective of a room full of Interpol agents in Army of thieves. “Go zombies!” Yells the boss, as well as everyone else involved in the prequel to Zack Snyder’s recent film Army of the dead, which picks up a seemingly loose backstory that has almost nothing to do with the flesh-eating monsters that rampage across Las Vegas in the latter.
A heist film into a romantic comedy set in a zombie flick set in Snyder’s ever-expanding multiverse Cogs in Army of thieves spinning furiously for over two hours, but never really settling in an interesting place. There’s probably a sweet, smooth little comedy buried somewhere beneath the bloat, but the film’s involvement in Snyder’s content farm leaves it too long, insufficient, and slightly unnecessary.
Matthias Schweighöfer is reprising his role as Dieter, the nervous German cracker of AOTD, in addition to directing, with Snyder in the role of producer. Years before he was recruited into the mercenary squad that faced off against the zombie hordes in Vegas, Dieter was just a humble Berlin bank teller with a safecracking YouTube channel that no one was watching. Falling into a strange underground cracker community, Dieter meets Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel from Game of thrones and Fast Furious) and reluctantly agrees to join his gang on a series of international robberies. Crime isn’t really Dieter’s thing, but the real draw here is the chance to decipher three legendary safes inspired by Wagner’s operas – the three intricate puzzle boxes he’s spent his life obsessed with.
Join hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee), Driver Ralph (British comedian Gaz Khan, doing a lot here with not much more than a single sandwich joke) and hired the heavyweight Brad Cage (Jamestown‘s Stuart Martin), Dieter, and Gwendoline begin to break bank to bank as their romance fizzles out – and the zombie plague in America barely has a glimpse of it.
Schweighöfer has a lighter touch than Snyder, swapping his producer’s maximalist weight for a savvy cartoon style, but he still suffers from the same problem of trying to do too much at once. The shots of a dozen other heist movies can be seen behind each robbery, and even in the parody, the comparisons don’t hold up very well. Dieter’s legendary safes all open in the same way (by listening very carefully and turning the knobs), so the tension wears off long before the runtime starts to exceed. Hindered by a mostly wooden cast to play, Schweighöfer’s own comedic performance (half Richard Ayoade, half Mr. Bean) falls flat, and a few awkward zombie dream sequences resemble focus group covers. .
In the end, this movie would have been much better if it had nothing to do with Army of the dead. But weighed down by the backstory of another movie, Army of thieves suffers from an excess of everything. With Snyder’s animated series Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas expected soon and a real AOTD A sequel in development, the spin-off of Schweighöfer, a well-meaning and messy Wagnarian comedy, will soon unfortunately end up buried at the bottom of a highly specialized Netflix scroll.
- Director: Matthias Schweighöfer
- With : Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee
- Release date: 29 october