It’s no secret that I was one of many people who were excited to see Army of the Dead by Zack Snyder when it came to Netflix (read our review!). And when it was not only a major hit, but had both prequels, sequels, and apparently an anime approved by the streamer…I was thrilled! But when it was announced that the prequel would be about a series of robberies and not about zombies, I’ll admit, I was worried. But as this Army Of Thieves Review will show, it was absolutely worth the focus and shift in genre.
And yes, there are zombies in it, just not in the way you think.
Ok, so, Army Of Thieves goes and tells the story of what happens in the time before Army of the Dead, and it follows fan-favorite character from the original movie Ludwig Dieter. Except, it’s not Ludwig yet…his name is Sebastian, and he’s the farthest thing from the person you met in the original movie.
Because as we find out, Sebastian is a many with a talent and a love of safecracking and its history…but lives a life where he honestly can’t go and do the things he loves. You know, outside of making YouTube videos that no one watches.
Enter Gwendoline, a woman on a mission who needs a safecracker, a very good one. After getting Sebastian to prove his worth, she recruits him to join her international heist team. Composed of the hacker, Korina (my personal favorite of the group, sorry Dieter/Sebastian), the getaway driver, Rolph, and the “action hero”, Brad Cage. Who might just have the most hilarious origin to his name ever. Seriously.
Anyway, it turns out that they want to pull off a special heist while everyone is worrying about the zombie apocalypse that recently started in Las Vegas (see? It DOES connect to the original movie, let no one tell you different, and the connections don’t stop there!). But there’s another twist here. They’re not just three of the four safes that Sebastian knows all about, they’re honestly not in it for the money, but the “quest”.
Gwendoline comes from a family of thieves, and she, like Sebastian, loves history and making it. So for them, the money is a bonus, and them being able to say they broke into three places, in less than four days, and breaking into each safe? That’s all they need to ride off into the sunset.
A clear contrast from other heist movies like the Ocean’s franchise.
So what makes Army of Thieves work? Well, a lot of things really. Sure, there’s no “attacks on zombies” here (that’s Army of the Dead here) but there’s a lot of style and substance here. As well as plenty of Zack Snyder flair…even though he wasn’t behind the camera for this one due to COVID restrictions.
For example, you might think that the safecracking scenes would be the boring part because they’re just trying to get into them, right? But no, Sebastian walks us through why each safe is special, and the story behind the maker’s intent with each one. Furthermore, we see the inner workings of each safe as Sebastian tries to crack them. When he gets in, it’s thrilling, and when he screws up, they make sure you know it in a very fun way, especially with safe No.2.
Furthermore, each one of the team has their own thing they bring to the table. Nathalie Emmanuel comes out great as Gwendoline and has multiple great sequences and scenes that shows why she’s the leading lady here (and doesn’t die a terrible death like in Game of Thrones…).
Ruby O. Fee comes off just as well as the funny and quirky Korina (still my favorite), Guz Khan as Rolph may get the short end of the stick in certain ways, but he makes up for it in others, and Stuart Martin amps things up as the action-oriented Brad Cage (yes, you have to say both parts of his name, it is known!!!)
And then, of course, there’s Matthias Schweighöfer as Sebastian. He brings a fun and energy and innocence to the role that makes you want to root for him even if you know his fate in Army of the Dead (which apparently is still up for debate according to Zack Snyder…).
Again, this is not the “criminal” that you meet in the original film, this is a man who loves to safe crack but also is weirded out by things like guns, violence, getting arrested, and so on. But as the film goes on, he finds his confidence and its fun to see. As well as funny when he tries to go macho and fails horribly.
Oh, and yes, he does do his scream…a lot.
As for the story, it may seem basic, and even predictable at points, but there are some fun twists along the way that make it worth the watch. Including the big betrayal midway through, the fracturing of the squad, how they get away with the third safe, and of course…the ending…
So, what holds it back? A few things, sadly, but it doesn’t lower the quality that much.
For example, we know that something happens to this crew that leads the newly-minted Dieter (and yes, you learn how he gets that name in Army of Thieves) to Nevada to be a part of Army of the Dead. So that kind of hurts certain parts, but the way they go out is unique and honestly respects what happens to Sebastian.
Second, there is of course opposition in this heist drama played by some Interpol agents. One of whom…is honestly an idiot. And just as bad, he can be a violent idiot (including hurting Korina at one point, NOT COOL!!!!), so that made him less appealing in certain ways that a true foil should be.
Also, there ARE zombies in the movie, mainly in that Sebastian sees them via the news and then starts dreaming about them. That’s cool. But the movie gets a bit meta by having Korina say that they’re “visions of how he will die”. And she harps on that a bit. We get it…we “know” his fate…ok?
Finally, while it’s hard not to love Sebastian…it does get a bit overwhelming at times.
Still, even with that, Army of Thieves is a really fun film that you should absolutely go and try out. If nothing else to see the now very important “introduction” scene again from Army of the Dead with new footage, new context, and a key Easter Egg if you pay attention.
Army of Thieves Review
Movie title: Army of Thieves
Army of Thieves Review may not be the prequel you’re expecting, but it’s a prequel that knows what it wants to do, and shines in doing it. Give it a try and you won’t regret it.
- Army of Thieves Review