Posts Tagged ‘"Army of the Dead’

Matthias Schweighofer

“Army of Thieves” My rating: B- (Netflix)

127 minutes | No MPAA rating

The heist-in-zombie-plagued-Las Vegas title “Army of the Dead” was, to me, anyway, a big bloated bore.

Weirdly, I kinda love “Army of Thieves,” a prequel that provides the back story of Ludwig Dieter, the squirrelly safecracker from the first movie.

Combining the whimsey and visual panache of “Amelie” with the well-worn cliches of a caper flick (with, yeah,  zombies lurking in the distant background), this effort from director Matthias Schweighofer (who also stars as the nimble-fingered Dieter) manages to be consistently diverting.

In large part it’s because Schweighofer is so good as Dieter, a safe-obsessed German nerd who in moments of crisis shrieks like a schoolgirl. He’s anything but heroic…in fact, the sorts of manly characters who usually dominate action films are here portrayed as villains.

Dieter has a little-watched YouTube series in which he rhapsodizes about a safe designer from the early 1900s who produced four impenetrable bank vaults inspired by Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

They’ve got names like Siegfried and Valkyrie and each has a specific design guaranteed to discourage any robbery attempts.

Apparently Dieter has one steady viewer. He’s contacted by the gorgeous Gwendoline (“GoT’s” Nathalie Emmanuel) who wants him to join her team of bank robbers.  Her plan is to hit the Ring Cycle safes in various banks across Europe, then move on to the final objective, the massive Gotterdammerung beneath a Las Vegas casino.

(News broadcasts scattered throughout the film inform us that there’s a zombie outbreak in Vegas.  The plague is yet to cross the Atlantic.)

Other members of the team include a master computer hacker (Ruby O. Fee), a skilled if overly-chatty getaway driver (Guz Khan) and the preening Brad (Stuart Martin), an imposing physical specimen who’s a dead-ringer for Hugh Jackman in Wolverine mode.

Turns out the intimidating Brad is also Gwendoline’s current squeeze, a situation that poses additional dangers as our dweeby protagonist finds himself falling ever more deeply for his boss lady’s charms. (Hard to blame him…Gwendoline is pretty charming.)

Shay Hatton’s screenplay (he also penned “Army of the Dead”) is jammed with amusing wordplay (whereas the earlier film was jammed with over-the-top mayhem) and the heist sequences have been paced and edited for maximum tension.

“Army of Thieves” ends pretty much where “Army of the Dead” began…but its pleasures don’t require any knowledge of the earlier movie.  It’s just fun.

| Robert W. Butler

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