Army of the Dead’s premise was a novel one: a group of ragtag misfits join together to steal $200 million from a zombie-infested Las Vegas before a nuclear bomb drops on Sin City. The result was one of Zack Snyder’s better movies, filled with neon colors, bloody headshots, and a scene-stealing undead tiger. Now comes the prequel, Army of Thieves, casting the spotlight on Ludwig Dieter, a nervous German safe-cracker with an impressive high-pitch squeal of a scream.
Dieter – played once more by Matthias Schweighöfer, who’s also on directing duties while Snyder produces – proves a surprisingly solid lead, bringing laughs and emotion to the fairly predictable plot. Don’t expect many zombies as Dieter – actual name Sebastian – is somewhat unwittingly recruited by professional thief Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel) to break into three infamous safes, each one located in high-security banks dotted around Europe. The central squad soon aligns – the pair are joined by a driver (Guz Khan), a hacker (Ruby O. Fee), and a tough guy (Stuart Martin) – and they go about plotting the progressively more difficult heists.
There are a few twists and turns along the way, but nothing revelatory. At times, there are simply too many plot threads being spun, with the inclusion of some feuding French government workers adding substantial baggage to proceedings. Any scene that doesn’t include Dieter is a missed opportunity, with the character being even more likable this time around – turns out, Snyder made the right call commissioning a prequel before Army of the Dead was released.
Snyder’s directorial flair is missing in parts. Schweighöfer is impressive behind the camera, especially when the actual safe-cracking takes place, making a normally mundane action cinematically interesting. However, don’t expect anything on par with the opening credits of Army of the Dead, or any particularly intense moments, even when there are the occasional zombies on screen.
Ah yes, the zombies. How does the movie actually link to Army of the Dead, other than the reappearance of Dieter? It’s initially established that every government in the world is firmly fixated on the Las Vegas infestation, hence why Gwendoline believes it’s the perfect time to conduct these heists. Later, the film’s final moments neatly fit with what comes next. The tie-ins between the two are otherwise rare, the overall effect being a fun spin-off that can happily be watched without having enjoyed Army of the Dead. As a result, though, Army of Thieves ends up feeling like an unessential addition to Netflix’s new franchise.
Army of Thieves reaches Netflix on October 29. In the meantime, check out the best Netflix movies streaming now.