Army of Thieves, the prequel to Netflix’s previous dud, Army of the Dead, promises two things: terrifying zombies and clever heists.
It delivers neither.
In this summer’s Army of the Dead, the Zombie Apocalypse has already arrived in America, and our protagonists decide to break into a safe full of cash found in a Las Vegas casino that sits at ground zero of Zombieville. This is a great idea undermined by a weak script and director Zack Snyder’s uninspired execution.
For whatever reason, Army of Thieves decided to take the simpering, nerdy, and brilliant German safecracker from Army of the Dead, Ludwig Dieter, and make him the star. Matthias Schweighöfer, who plays Dieter, also directs.
So it’s an origin story that tells us how Dieter became a master thief. It’s also supposed to be an origin story about the zombie outbreak.
Well, as far as zombies, there are none. So while Dieter runs around Europe cracking safes, other than a couple of bad dreams, the walking dead are nowhere to be found.
Even worse is Dieter’s brilliant safecracking abilities, which are a joke.
The movie opens with a broken promise, a backstory loaded with heavy mythology about a brilliant craftsman who built four impenetrable safes. No one can break into these safes! It’s impossible! Naturally, the army of thieves Dieter finds himself involved in means he will have to crack three of those legendary safes (the fourth is in Army of the Dead). So what you’re expecting is to see just how clever of a safecracker Dieter is.
We’re also promised three clever heists. After all, the crew must get Dieter past a load of heavy security so he can crack the safes. Then the crew has to remove all that money.
Sounds exciting, right?
Well, it’s not. It’s a joke.
All Dieter, the master safecracker, does is put his ear up against the safe and turn the dials. That’s it. That’s all he does. That’s his genius.
This means we’re supposed to believe a legendary craftsman built four impenetrable safes and forgot to soundproof them.
Worse still, there’s nothing clever about the in and out of the robberies. That aspect of the heists is a litany of tropes and clichés we’ve seen a hundred times. So how does our intrepid crew break into some of the most high-security institutions in the world? Distractions, super-hackers, and a prank phone call.
Basically, it’s 127 minutes of screenplay cheats and no zombies.
The only time the story perks up with a bit of charm is when Dieter and the heist leader, Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), work their way towards romance. But this one redeemable element is nowhere near enough to justify two hours of your life.