One of the big problems in Army of Thieves is whether one person’s charisma is enough to sustain a whole movie. Dieter, the extremely secure cracker played by Mattias Schweighofer, was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Zack Snyder’s zombie thriller Army of the Dead. His guileless wit and charm made him easy to return to, and he was a strong contender for his own spin-off. Army of Thieves is the spin-off, which swaps genres as a heist caper and poor romantic drama, with the zombies mostly appearing in nightmares and shaky news videos.
It’s a pleasant, generally fast-paced film with a few exhilarating action sequences (a chase through Prague comes close to being thrilling), but its strength also exposes its worst flaw. Because Schweighofer’s personality is so vibrant and engaging, it stands out in a way that no one else’s does. Six years earlier than Dieter joined the 1% in Las Vegas, he worked as a bank teller in Potsdam, leading a mundane existence with no variation in routine. When his call was returned, it was changed to Sebastian. Sebastian has been fascinated by the fictional secure fashion tailor Hans Wagner, whose masterworks were four puzzles inspired by the non-fictional musician Richard Wagner and his Ring Cycle operas since he was a toddler.
Rheingold, Walkurie, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung were the names of the four safes. Let’s put the Gotterdammerung on the back burner for now, because it’s the one thing Sebastian is meant to shatter in the Army of the Dead. Sebastian enlists the help of Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), a master thief, to film a YouTube video expressing his passion for Wagner’s mythical safes, which also serves as an exposition dump for the audience. She convinces him to join her team of international bank robbers by promising him three heists, each aimed at a Wagner safe. Sebastian isn’t concerned about the money; what matters to him is the challenge’s irresistible allure – and possibly also the irresistible allure of Gwendoline.
As far as the storyline goes, Schweighofer’s Army of Thieves, directed by Schweighofer and written by Snyder and Shay Hatten, is perfectly serviceable as a heist caper and, on occasion, as a love drama. But, except for Sebastian and possibly Gwendoline, the rest of the group – hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee), getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan), and muscled Brad Cage (Stuart Martin) – are so thin and transient that they might as well not exist.
Then there’s the Interpol team after them, led by a vengeful agent named Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), who was shot in the head by the mob during a pre-planned brawl. Delacroix has a 17 out of ten, whereas everyone else has an eight. At each stage, the person appears to be in a different movie—imagine Will Ferrell as a villain in a sixth Spy Kids sequel. Despite these annoyances, Army of Thieves is a fun enough heist adventure that gives you more of Schweighofer’s adorable secure cracker – and that’s about it.