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Photo: ‘Army of Thieves’
Zack Snyder has been having quite the year in 2021. After expressing his unhappiness with the mess that was 2017’s ‘Justice League’ and after years of fans and actors campaigning for his own version of the film, he finally finished and released ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ in March of this year. Two months later, his long-awaited zombie heist film ‘Army of the Dead’ was released on Netflix. Now, at the end of October, he’s produced a prequel to the latter, the rom-com heist film ‘Army of Thieves’. Despite not directing the film and only serving a producer film along with his wife (He’s directing a sequel to his film, titled ‘Planet of the Dead’, soon), Snyder’s fingerprints are all over this film as director and star Matthias Schweighöfer took what he learned from ‘Army of the Dead’ and made it his own. This film has action, romance, and a lot of laughs, and another success for Zack Snyder and Netflix.
‘Army of Thieves’: A Quick Synopsis
Set six years before ‘Army of the Dead’, ‘Army of Thieves’ follows Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) from the first film before he becomes the man we know him to be. Going by his real name, Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert, Ludwig spends his days working as a bank teller in Potsdam, Germany who makes YouTube videos about safecracking. His videos usually get no views, until one day a video of his receives a view and a comment inviting him to a secret meeting. He goes and finds out it’s a safecracking competition, and he meets a woman named Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), who changes Ludwig’s life forever.
She offers him a spot on her heist team. There’s Rolph the getaway driver (Guz Khan), Korina the hacker (Ruby O. Fee), and self-proclaimed leader of the group and mercenary Brad (Stuart Martin), along with herself. Together, their goal is to rob three of the world’s most hard-to-crack safes, created by a famous millionaire decades prior, and to use the money for wealth and notoriety. Meanwhile, they are being followed by Interpol agent Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), who’s obsessed with capturing the gang at any cost. Throughout ‘Army of Thieves’, Sebastian must find it in himself to step up and see if he has what it takes to become a legendary safecracker.
A Change in Tone
Despite being related to ‘Army of the Dead’ in terms of its prequel status (‘Army of the Dead’ itself being a spiritual successor to Snyder’s 2004 film ‘Dawn of the Dead’), ‘Army of Thieves’ is quite a different movie than its predecessor. While ‘Army of the Dead’ relied more on horror and action elements, ‘Thieves’ puts more focus on the actual heist element instead. Taking place at the start of the zombie apocalypse, there’s less focus on the undead. We see moments of the world reacting to the outbreak, along with Sebastian’s horrifying nightmares of being unable to open a safe to escape a horde of zombies, but besides this, the zombies have no impact on the general story of the movie.
With less emphasis on the horror aspect, ‘Army of Thieves’ feels less like a creature feature/heist flick and just pure safe-cracking shenanigans. The focus lies on Sebastian, who’s clearly not used to the high-octane environment of robbing banks, even if it’s done in secrecy. Sebastian’s personality clashes constantly with the rest of the group, as his naive, happy-go-lucky attitude goes against their confident, more experienced demeanor. In particular, he ends up at odds with Brad, who’s in the heist for the money and less for the legacy. Brad’s obsession with American blockbuster heroes shapes his personality and puts him against Sebastian, a man who’s authentic to himself. Brad plays a semi-antagonist in the film, someone for Sebastian to go against but not be the overarching villain of the whole film.
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Heroes and Villains
The real antagonist is Delacroix. He holds a vendetta against the group, especially against Gwendoline and Brad, and has been trying to capture them for years. He has a team of agents at his disposal to try and capture the group, and he tries to use his obsession and his resources to capture them. He’s convincing as a villain, but sadly, that’s really it. He doesn’t have much weight as a villain because the group is always one step ahead of him. He never really feels like a threat until the end of the last act, and even then it doesn’t feel as impactful. Delacroix yells a lot and misuses his power as an Interpol agent, enough that it’s obvious how much his obsession with capturing Gwendoline and her group has gotten to him. Still, I would have liked to see a more competent villain in ‘Army of Thieves’, rather than an unhinged agent.
The real star of the show is Matthias Schweighöfer, who directed the film and plays Sebastian. Just like in ‘Army of the Dead’, Schweighöfer has fun in the role and brings some nuance to Sebastian as a character. His performance feels animated, with the way Sebastian’s lanky body jumps around during action scenes and the way he shrieks in a high-pitched manner every time something surprising or exciting happens. With such a dynamic character at the forefront of the film, it works and adds that extra layer of comedy that separates ‘Army of Thieves’ from its predecessor.
‘Army of Thieves’: What Works and What Doesn’t
That’s what makes ‘Thieves’ work. It’s not like ‘Army of the Dead’ much in genre. It’s related, but it’s its own thing; It feels like its own movie, despite the sharing of world and characters. There are still stylized action sequences and other standout moments that make it feel like a Snyder film (even though it’s not), but other than that, it doesn’t feel too attached to the original work. Schweighöfer and Zack and Deborah Snyder have fun with changing things up, and that’s what works about ‘Army of Thieves’. There are some weird dialogue choices and some of the side characters could have used more time to flesh out (Ralph and Korina come to mind), but overall it was a fun popcorn flick that is worth watching for any Zack Snyder fan or heist film fanatic.
‘Army of Thieves’ is available now on Netflix.
Cast and Crew:
Cast: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Guz Khan, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Jonathan Cohen
Directed by: Matthias Schweighöfer | Story by: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten
Cinematography by: Bernhard Jasper | Edited by: Alexander Berner
Music by: Hans Zimmer, Steve Mazzaro
By Ben Ross
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Ben Ross is a writer at Hollywood Insider. He loves watching films and finding the message behind the art. With a love for movies and television, his goal is to understand as much as he can about anything he watches, and engage with readers about different topics related to the industry. He aims to find work that sheds a light on issues not really talked about and showcase it, feeling that it is important to understand the truth. Together with his readers, he hopes to celebrate beautiful stories in film and explore topics that are worth discussing – a value that defines Hollywood Insider.