Army of Thieves REVIEW – Quirky Fun

The film lives and breathes on Matthias Schweighöfer's charismatic performance.

Army of Thieves
Army of Thieves

Spoilers for Army of the Dead follow.

Cultured Vultures spoilers

I think we can all collectively agree that Matthias Schweighöfer’s Dieter was the best thing about Army of the Dead. He was funny, relatable, and we all felt the tragedy of his death. He is the only reason why I decided to watch this prequel, especially since I didn’t enjoy Army of the Dead.

I don’t regret my decision: Army of Thieves is a fun movie, and I had a whale of a time watching it. It’s not the most compelling heist movie I’ve ever seen, but Schweighöfer’s performance makes the experience totally worth it.

As this is a prequel, we get the backstory as to how Dieter ended up in Las Vegas during a zombie apocalypse. Turns out, he wasn’t even Dieter at this point – the man’s name was Sebastian, and he was working a boring nine to five job, eager for some excitement yet never close to any. This all changes when Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) enters his life. He’s mesmerised by her, and lets her convince him to join their bank robbing gang. The target? A series of uncrackable safes made by Wagner – the group have located three and need him to crack them.

The film benefits a lot from having Schweighöfer in the lead role. He is utterly charismatic, with an awkward geeky charm that really endears him to the viewer. Dieter’s inexperience also adds a nice contrast to the rest of the group, who have been working together for a while and are more composed under pressure than he is. I do wish they build up the romance spaces a bit better (it is played out as super chaste for some reason), but Schweighöfer and Emmanuel do a competent job in selling their relationship to me. There is the romance obstacle in the way of Gwen’s former flame Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), who is also a member of the team, that gave Army of Thieves some twists that I didn’t expect, which helped give the film some much-needed stakes.

However, besides Schweighöfer, Emmanuel and Ruby O. Fee’s Korina, the other characters aren’t really memorable or impactful. The Interpol agent (Jonathan Cohen) is annoyingly abrasive, with Cohen playing the obsessive cop in such a hyperbolic fashion that it makes it hard to root for him as a character. To give a comparable example, in Catch Me If You Can, we’re rooting for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Frank to get away with things, but we also aren’t actively rooting against Tom Hanks’ Agent Hanratty. Cohen’s Delacroix was just too over the top to take seriously.

The heist portion is a bit of a letdown, as there’s nothing particularly innovative about their plans, and the safecracking visuals don’t really add anything to the experience. The zombie aspect isn’t particularly present in this film, either – more on the periphery of things. So other than Dieter’s character appearing in both, there really isn’t much overlap – I can easily watch one without the other. This is why I don’t like prequels about dead characters – there is a certain determinism in watching them make their way forward, to an ending we can’t prevent.

All I know is, I enjoy Schweighöfer and I want to see him in more movies, where he can do more that just be limited to the world Zack Snyder created.

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Army of Thieves
Matthias Schweighöfer is one of the main reasons why Army of Thieves even works. He grounds the film both as protagonist and director. The problem is, the screenplay doesn't give him much to work with.