Reprising his role from the previous movie (it feels weird calling it that as the events here precede that one) is Matthias Schweighofer as Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert/Ludwig Dieter, the expert safe-cracker who is recruited by the mysterious beauty Gwendoline Starr (Nathalie Emmanuel) for a string of heists in Europe.
The nerdy hero and Gwendoline are joined by the other members of her team; Alexis Broschini/Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), Korina Dominguez (Ruby O. Fee), and Rolph (Guz Khan). With Sebastian’s help, they must do the seemingly impossible as a vengeful Interpol agent closes in on their trail.
I was shocked when I found out that the lead actor here also directed the film. I’m not familiar with him or any of his previous works and I must say I disliked him as a character in the prequel.
Finding out that Schweighofer helmed this one while playing the protagonist was another thing that made me think, ‘I hate this actor’s character already and they made him a director in this unnecessary sequel? Man, am I going to have a kick out of bashing this movie!’
Matthias Schweighofer and Nathalie Emmanuel in ARMY OF THIEVES
I did not like Army of the Dead and I saw no reason why a decision to make a prequel was made. Zack Snyder’s zombie movie failed in almost every way so naturally, I was eager to see this one and also give it a scathing review. Well, Army of Thieves turned out to be a delightful surprise.
Whereas Army of the Dead is a dark and disappointing film, Army of Thieves is the opposite; the injection of humour and suspense make it a far better movie than Snyder’s own.
Granted, the zombie flick had some elements of comedy but it was largely forced and failed to elicit the desired effect. This one succeeds as most of the comic moments achieved what they were meant to, and that is because the lead actor manages to make his character by the far the most interesting to watch.
As I said earlier, Matthias Schweighofer came across as irritating in Army of the Dead but here, he is why you want to follow the events of the plot to its conclusion.
Sebastian has always been fascinated with safes as a child and after being unwittingly plunged into a contest to prove his worth, he meets the delectable Gwen who convinces him to leave his dull existence and follow them to make something meaningful of his life.
The hero finds it hard to refuse when a beautiful maiden arrives asking for his help. From the get-go, he is floored by her looks and charm but they are not the reason why he agrees to the job. As a fan of the man who designed the safes, he sees the moment as an opportunity to connect with someone he has always revered on some kind of personal level.
I feel I owe Schweighofer an apology because of the harsh words I used on his character in my review for Army of the Dead. It is his compelling and grounded performance here that makes his character remarkably nuanced.
As for Game of Thrones alum Nathalie Emmanuel, she hardly convinced me she is the talented pickpocket she is said to be. Other than acting as the brains of the outfit and the heists, and kicking a few asses along the way, she never really gets a chance to show why she became a most wanted criminal or how talented she is in that regard.
Gwen is meant to be charismatic but it is the buff-looking Brad Cage whose presence trumps hers whenever they appear together. Even Korina, the rebellious computer hacker, makes more of an impression than she does.
This is not to say that Emmanuel’s Gwen is insignificant. She does contribute meaningfully to the plot progression (especially the final act where her loyalty to the hero is proven in the most selfless way) but she could have been so much more than a pretty face giving the commands.
I love the cinematography, the shots, and the effects used in the action scenes (which could have been better, by the way).
There were moments where the jokes seemed inappropriate and Nathalie Emmanuel trying to be funny was just not convincing at all.
If there is one thing that this film suffers from is the lack of a real antagonist. It would have been really something to pit the hero against a villain who would prove to be his intellectual equal. But that doesn't happen, and the one who ends up being the so-called bad guy gets defeated so easily that I wondered why it was written that way.
Also, there were times I got the feeling that the screenwriter put in some unnecessary things just to distract the viewer from some of the film's downsides. While it works for the most part, it doesn't remove the movie's shortcomings.
When it comes to the acting, I tip my heart to the lead star for a job well done. After demonstrating how funny and interesting his character can be when it comes to the finale where he is required to show genuine emotion, he doesn't disappoint.
Apart from the Brad Cage guy and the hacker Korina, the supporting characters don't do anything remarkable in the acting department. The Interpol agent who chases them is fun to watch because his frustration is comical and I enjoyed seeing him fail.
I didn't expect that my review for this movie would be positive but I'm always glad when filmmakers prove me wrong by surprising me this way. I only wish I could get more of Sebastian in the sequel being made (yes, there is one coming). Too bad his fate was decided in Army of the Dead.
Final word: Army of Thieves is an enjoyable comedy thriller with a fantastic performance by the lead actor.