Directed by Matthias Schweighöfer
Stars: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, and Jonathan Cohen
Admittedly, when it was first announce that a prequel for the comedy character in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead (2021), I was a tad skeptical. Dieter was a beloved character on the Vegas based zombie heist movie, and the German produced plenty of laughs in Snyder’s film- but how was he interesting enough to be given even more backstory, and more importantly what could this story do to elevate itself with it’s zombie based parent film. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong though- and Army of Thieves delivered more than one could imagine.
A mysterious woman recruits Ludwig Dieter to lead a group of aspiring thieves on a top secret heist during the early stages of the zombie apocalypse
The true realization that I was wrong to be skeptical of this movie; was as I discovered that Dieters backstory not only was strong enough to stand on its own- but in its own unique way it actually enhanced my thoughts on Army of the Dead. Getting the backstory, and discovering the reasons for what took the German to Nevada and the ill fated heist crew- created a much stronger emotional punch for what occurred in the first film. Schweighöfer clearly has a deep connection to this character, and it’s in the care he takes to build Dieter from a pure comedy character to still this lovable goofball, but with plenty of ruffles and heartbreaks in his past- something strong and grounded enough to convince the audience that he is a capable lead.
We get the perfect blend in the script of comedy, and drama. There’s enough intensity to make it feel like there are stakes in the universe still even if we know that clearly Dieter makes it through as he is in Nevada for AOTD. Being able to convince the viewer knowing what they know, that there’s stakes and that our lovable goofball hero could still be in danger. The constant dread that his crew is using him and could pin him for all of this, lingers on the audience throughout the movie. Yet, the script in the same beat finds a way to naturally change tones and hit the audience with gags that are bound to have you smiling at your screen. There’s a running joke throughout; and every single time it’s uttered- I cracked up.
The cast is brilliant, i’ve spent plenty of time applauding Schweighöfer for his work behind the screen and as our lead, but it would be a shame to not spend some time complimenting his co stars. Stuart Martin and Guz Khan both fit perfectly in their roles as heist members Brad Cage and Rolph, as well as good performances from Noémie Nakai and Jonathan Cohen who play the Interpol agents desperate to catch our heist crew. The two standouts for myself though, we’re the two incredible performances by Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) and Ruby O. Fee (Polar), both ladies not only were on the same level as our lead but they constantly pushed each other and Schweighöfer to give their best- the chemistry between the trio is so strong. Emmanuel brings so much to the franchise, and it is clear that her and Schweighöfer connected on camera in a truly special way. O. Fee is a smaller role than Emmanuel, but she provides plenty of comedic relief and much like Dieter in the first movie there’s enough given that i’d love to see more backstory for her character Korina, the hacker on the crew.
The visuals are spectacular, and there’s so many cool scenes when Dieter is working on the safes where we see the inner workings of the safe- as they move and click with every move of Dieter’s fingers. We see it with the various safes he works on, and it gets more and more spectacular the more difficult the safes become.
Overall, even though the runtime may hold it back from truly hitting on every wave that I wanted it too- there’s so much fun to be had in Army of Thieves, and admittedly I enjoyed it even more than Army of the Dead because of the weight it brings to both movies