‘Army of Thieves’ review: Netflix’s Army of the Dead prequel trades zombies for more heists

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The best moments of Netflix Army of thieves, a weirdly light prequel focused on Zack Snyder’s gargantuan bloodbath heist in Vegas Army of the dead, mainly involve the camera sliding through the locking mechanisms of various comically elaborate safes that need to be cracked. In these brief scenes, pieces of metal fit together, gears creak and cylinders snap into place. The special effects team and director Matthias Schweighöfer, who also plays the role of talented cracker Ludwig Dieter, ensure that the inner workings of these objects, named after the Ring cycle by German composer Richard Wagner according to the frame convoluted background of the film, looks like miniature steampunk planets. The film presents safecracking as a quasi-romantic and supernatural performance.

These whimsical puzzle-solving pieces make the rest of the movie, a purposely derivative riff on staples like ocean 11 and Italian work, I feel a little uninspired. Did anyone come out of Army of the dead, an often overloaded epic that spun from set to set, with a burning desire to know exactly how Dieter got to America? The main selling point of Snyder’s film earlier this year was seeing the clever conventions of the heist genre mixed with the carnage-filled tropes of the zombie genre, especially by the guy who made the 2004s. Dawn of the Dead remake. Here, the living dead take a back seat. Yes, there’s a zombie apocalypse in the background on TV, and the Flickering Flesh Eaters do appear in a few dream sequences, but they’re almost entirely absent from the main plot.

Instead, the script, written by Shay Hatten from a story of Hatten and Snyder, follows Dieter on his journey from an unpopular YouTube security personality to a trusted man for a crime ring run. by the charming Gwendoline by Nathalie Emmanuel. Related to Army of the dead squad, the Army of thieves the crew is quite small: there is a muscular man named Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), who is named after Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage; a getaway driver named Rolph (Guz Khan); and a tech-savvy hacker named Korina (Ruby O. Fee), who got his start as a thief by hacking a Pirates of the Caribbean suite and upload it. Collectively, they believe that the slowly falling world should give them decent cover for their projects.

If you haven’t noticed those brief character descriptions above, Army of thieves is peppered with references and allusions to other movies and pop culture pieces. (At one point, there’s a joke about Zac Efron’s transformation into a zombie.) Almost every character, from the mischievous protagonist to random security guards, take a second to recognize the pure movie of the situations they find themselves in. , a stylistic choice that can be clever at times, but becomes self-destructive as the film progresses. Why cut short bursts of genuine tension by constantly drawing attention to artifice?

It’s a shame because Army of thieves, As Army of the dead, has a handful of effective stopped parts. The safety sequences are lively, the central romance has a certain sparkle, and around the middle of the film Schweighöfer stages a delightful bike chase scene that sets the right tone of comedic euphoria. These moments offer a glimpse into the blustery heist movie it could have been. But too many other factors, from the presence of the zombies in the background to the need to tie the story back to Snyder’s larger verse at the end, prevent the film from unleashing its true potential. Most of the fun remains hidden inside a safe.


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