Safe space: 'Army of Thieves' a relatively breezy, aggressively silly prequel to 'Army of the Dead' - Albuquerque Journal

Safe space: ‘Army of Thieves’ a relatively breezy, aggressively silly prequel to ‘Army of the Dead’

Matthias Schweighfer, left, and Nathalie Emmanuel in “Army of Thieves.” (Stanislav Honzik/Netflix)

The first rule about Safecracking Club:

1. Ah, go ahead and talk about Safecracking Club.

The second rule about Safecracking Club:

2. See above. You might as well talk about it because it’s pretty ridiculous and I don’t think the cops are gonna care.

One of my favorite scenes in “Army of Thieves,” a relatively breezy and light, and aggressively silly standalone prequel to “Army of the Dead,” arrives early in the film when the low-level German bureaucrat, full-term nerd and amateur safecracking geek Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer) is invited to participate in a mysterious underground safecracking tournament. A crowd of rabid fans cheers wildly – we presume they’ve placed bets on the action – and Dieter finds himself racing to open a series of increasingly complex safes against some stylishly outfitted, marginally menacing competitors who look like magician contestants on “Germany’s Got Talent.” When Dieter wins the final round, the crowd goes wild!

Think about this for a second, patient reader. They’re watching individuals who are trying to OPEN SAFES. By comparison, televised pickleball, cornhole and axe-throwing would be positively riveting.

Still, thanks to Schweighofer’s stylish, “Italian Job”-influenced directing, a sense of its own ridiculous nature, and some fabulous performances by the charming and good-looking supporting cast, “Army of Thieves” is the very definition of an entertaining Netflix confection. Though it features the safecracking Dieter, who was featured prominently in Zach Snyder’s Las Vegas-set “Army of the Dead,” and there are some amusing if strained connections to that zombie apocalypse blockbuster, this story is only tangentially connected to the world of the undead. It takes place some six years prior to the events of “Army of the Dead,” with the zombie outbreak just igniting in the U.S. – which is of only passing interest to the people of Western Europe, who look up from time to time and see it playing out on TV.

Schweighofer goes all-in with an over-the-top, mostly endearing, occasionally obnoxious performance as the fastidious, shrill-voiced, borderline cowardly but good-hearted Dieter, who is living an anonymous and quite sad life in Potsdam, Germany – toiling at a soul-crushing job, seemingly without friends or family, and spending his free time posting YouTube videos about safecracking that often garner 0 views.

Ruby O Fee, left, and Nathalie Emmanuel in “Army of Thieves.” (Stanislav Honzik/Netflix)

Ah, but one such video catches the attention of Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel from “Game of Thrones”), a skilled pickpocket and criminal mastermind who leads an army of, well, thieves that includes the expert getaway driver Rolph (Guz Khan), the brilliant hacker Korina (Ruby O. Fee) and a granite-jawed action hero (Stuart Martin) who looks like the first runner-up in a Hugh Jackman lookalike contest and has given himself the movie marquee name of Brad Cage because he was bullied as a boy and inspired by such action stars as Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage to bulk up and get tough. Brad Cage, ladies and gentlemen!

Gwendoline recruits the smitten Dieter to join the gang as they embark on a series of nearly impossible heists, all involving the legendary works of the German locksmith Hans Wagner, who, in his waning years, built four safes, named for each opera of Richard Wagner’s ring cycle. (That would be “Das Rheingold,” “Die Walküre,” “Siegfried” and “Götterdämmerung,” or “The Twilight of the Gods,” for those of you playing at home.)

At this point, “Army of Thieves” becomes a three-part heist movie, with the usual bickering and bonding among the gang members, a love triangle involving the infatuated Dieter, the conflicted Gwendoline and the brooding Brad Cage – and the obligatory “Ocean’s 11”-style scenes of planning and executing the heists. Those culminate with Dieter flexing his hands and grandstanding a bit before he goes to work, at which point we see some cool CGI shots of gears whirling and clicking into place. All the while, Jonathan Cohen provides the comic relief as the exasperated Delacroix, an Interpol official who is always just one step behind that blasted Army of Thieves.

After some exciting action sequences and a final twist that is implausible even for an escapist film such as this, “Army of Thieves” stays with Dieter past this adventure and you already know where he’s going next.

Welcome to Las Vegas, baby.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Book dives into the history of the winter sport ...
Arts
Daniel Gibson grew up in the ... Daniel Gibson grew up in the North Valley. ...
2
River of Lights returns with new sculptures, Santa's Workshop
Entertainment
The tradition continues.Thousands of lights will ... The tradition continues.Thousands of lights will illuminate the grounds of the ABQ Bio ...
3
'In Case You Didn't Know' with Raymond Sandoval
Arts
Raymond Sandoval was raised in Jemez ... Raymond Sandoval was raised in Jemez Springs with his grandmother.At a young age, he b ...
4
Movie production facility opens at Journal plant
ABQnews Seeker
As New Mexico's film industry continues ... As New Mexico's film industry continues to boom, studio space is scarce.
5
B Ruppe MicroMuseum dedicated to history of drugstore's Barelas ...
Entertainment
The drugstore was the longest continuously ... The drugstore was the longest continuously operating drugstore in Albuquerque, founded in 1883 by German immigrant, Bernard Ruppe
6
'The Nutcracker' to take the stage at Popejoy Hall
Dance
It's been over 18 months since ... It's been over 18 months since the dancers at New Mexico Ballet Company have stepped on stage. ...
7
Juno Brewery opens in Wells Park location abandoned by ...
Blogs
In addition to beer, the brewery ... In addition to beer, the brewery is offering food that includes tapas plates, paninis, hot dogs and coffee drinks
8
'The Shrink Next Door' actor used role to study ...
Entertainment
Cornell Womack has worked with some ... Cornell Womack has worked with some of the greatest actors during his career.Working o ...
9
Holiday treat: Discovery+ gets into yule spirit with feature ...
Entertainment
Molly McCook and Aaron O'Connell are ... Molly McCook and Aaron O'Connell are getting in the holiday spirt early.The two actors ...
10
Las Cruces rising as filmmaking hot spot; tax incentives ...
ABQnews Seeker
Productions that film 60 miles outside ... Productions that film 60 miles outside the Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor can get an extra 5% added