Sunday 23 June 2024

Netflix And Chill: Army Of Thieves (2021)

I know that some people rushed to see this when it first landed on Netflix, but I don't know why. A prequel spin-off from Army Of The Dead, focusing on one of the supporting characters in that film, and directed by the actor who played/still plays that character, there was nothing here that made me consider this a priority. I'm glad I finally got around to it now though, and I can tell everyone else that this is actually quite a bit better than the film that spawned it.

Matthias Schweighöfer is Ludwig Dieter, a mild-mannered man who maintains very strict order in his life while spending his spare time mastering the art of safe-cracking, in theory. He dreams of breaking in to four legendary safes, a quartet of huge devices that become increasingly difficult to break into when approached in a certain order, and he has the chance to turn his dream into a reality when he's approached by a group of criminals, helmed by Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel). But the chance to make his dream comes true also comes with the chance of everything turning into a nightmare.

Clocking in with a runtime of just over two hours, because of course it does, the most pleasant surprise about Army Of Thieves is how well it moves through the fairly silly plot, helped by a decent mix of characters and a few fun set-pieces. Writer Shay Hatten keeps the growing zombie threat from Army Of The Dead simmering away in the background, but sensibly focuses on this as an amusing crime caper, centred on an entertainingly nervy and ill-prepared main character.

Schweighöfer is great in the main role, making it easy to remember why his character was such a standout in the previous film. As awkward with people as he is comfortable with lock mechanisms, he's allowed to be the kind of criminal that viewers can easily root for, in it more for the challenge than any big payday, and aiming to get things done with a minimum of fuss or casualties. Emmanuel is an enjoyable screen presence, and she does well enough in her main role here, although it's hard to view her as a strong leader when the cracks in the team start to show. Stuart Martin is the mean and moody one, abd both Guz Khan and Ruby O. Fee are there to be placed in difficult positions as things become more strained. Jonathan Cohen is the determined cop who is always just one step behind, as expected, and there is an end scene that presents the expected cameos reminding everyone of where these events have been leading.

Aside from his acting onscreen, Schweighöfer also deserves some credit for his direction. This isn't his first feature, but all of his previous films have been co-directed with Torsten Künstler, which makes this his first solo outing. I'm sure he was given a lot of support and guidance by those who wanted to keep this in line with Zack Snyder's movie (and that support no doubt includes Snyder himself potentially offering some pointers), but Schweighöfer manages to deliver something that feels in line with the previous film in this series without ever being slavishly devoted to it. It's a character piece, it's a comedic crime film, it's a fun adventure. It's not a film that needs to keep reminding you of every detail and overcooked style of what preceded it.

Absolutely disposable stuff, admittedly, but I certainly enjoyed it enough while it was on. And I'd certainly be more keen to watch another film about this character than I would to watch another zombie-filled Snyder movie at this point.


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  1. I'm usually down for a heist movie.

    1. Be warned, the heist element isn't as well-planned and presented as it is in other films like this one.