A prequel even Danny Ocean would have enjoyed.
“Army of Thieves” is the prequel to Netflix action horror hit from last May called “Army of the Dead,” and it’s also a spin-off on the German safecracker Ludwig Dieter, who was hilariously and wisely played by Matthias Schweighofer. He takes over the director’s chair for Zach Snyder, who co-wrote and produced this. And while this relies on his high-pitched screams too much, it still has enough laughs, action, and style to make it entertaining.
His story takes place just as the zombie apocalypse begins, with Dieter as a bank teller in Berlin, who makes YouTube videos about cracking safes and the people who developed them with literally no views at all. His only view and comment comes from an international thief named Gwendolyn (Nathalie Emmanuel from the latest “Fast & Furious” movies), who recruits him for a big job, regarding three complicated cases located in Paris, Prague, and St. Moritz.
Her team consists of the master hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee), who leaked “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” before its release, the getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan), who poses as a valet to give a hot car a spin, and their own “real life action hero” Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), who acts like if “Brad Pitt **** Nicolas Cage.”
Of course, you get a would-be love story and betrayal in the mix. And the one on their tail is the compulsive Interpol agent Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), who got shot in the behind. Every time, they beat him, he throws an angry outburst. That’s how committed he is to his job.
I give both “Army of the Dead” and “Army of Thieves” three stars, because while they have their faults, they still have their styles and energy. While “Army of the Dead” could of had a better ending, its cast and zombie dodging were fun; and while Dieter’s screaming and wimpy punching could have been cut back in “Army of Thieves,” he’s still a character who knows his safe, and Schweighofer delivers the goods in that role.
And as the director, he gives the prequel an “Ocean’s Eleven” quality that knows what its getting the characters into, before one of them has to deal with the zombies in the first movie. Only the outbreak takes place in Las Vegas, which is why you’ll only find the zombies on the news or in your dreams. This takes place internationally, so I bet the American characters envy the foreigners.
Schweighofer doesn’t just carry the movie, but also Emmanuel provides much better work than in the recent “Fast & Furious:” sequels, because she has a versatile and smart study that the hero is either interested in or he’s too distracted by her beauty and her actually talking to a guy like him to even pay attention. But he proves to be better than that. And there’s also gripping connection between her and Martin, whose true colors really set things into high gear. And Cohen seems committed to the Interpol agent role, and his character’s intentions, thus making him enjoyable.
The following is a spoiler alert for those who didn’t see “Army of the Dead,” but it’s a shame Dieter couldn’t survive the zombie apocalypse. At least, he gets his own movie, even if it is a prequel, and it’s a fun one. And it’s only playing on Netflix; it’s not in theaters.
Streaming on Netflix Tomorrow