“Army of Thieves,” a new heist film now streaming on Netflix, is a prequel to Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” from earlier this year but do not expect the same kind of blood and guts zombiefied action.
The new film takes place six years before the zombie outbreak that brought Las Vegas to its knees in “Army of the Dead.” Both are heist movies, but the only brain eaters on display in this European-set flick are on the news and in the main character, Ludwig Dieter’s (Matthias Schweighöfer, who also directs) dreams. This is a standalone movie, the origin story of the safecracker who provided most of the lighter moments in Snyder’s film.
When we first meet Ludwig he’s a safecracker nerd, making YouTube video (that nobody watches) about the art of breaking into safes. He’s a skilled practitioner of the craft, but he’s an innocent and has never stolen anything from anyone. His job at a bank is unsatisfying in the extreme, so when a YouTube commenter invites him a safecracking competition, he readily accepts.
There, he proves his mettle and is recruited by bank robber Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) to join her gang of criminals, Korina (Ruby O. Fee), hacker Rolph (Guz Khan) and the muscle with the action hero name, Brad Cage (Stuart Martin). The gang has ambitious plans to rob three next-to-impossible safes, the kind that only Ludwig can crack, while the zombie outbreak in the United States is causing instability.
But what will bring the gang down first, zombies, sexual tension, Interpol or in-fighting?
The only real connection “Army of Thieves” has with “Army of the Dead” is Ludwig. It’s his introduction to the Snyderverse and dovetails into the zombie movie. Other than that, they are two separate things.
This one has a lighter touch, there’s some romance and no brain eating.
It plays like a riff on “Ocean’s Eleven.” At two hours it feels slightly long but Schweighöfer is an agreeable presence, adept at the character’s slapstick as well as the conveying the passion for his love interest (no spoilers here!). The result is an unexpectedly fun, action-packed movie gives new life to “Army of the Dead’s” most interesting character.