Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The first 22 minutes of ‘Army of Thieves’ displays how with the right music, actors and set, one can even make a story about a bunch of cons feel like an epic fantasy film. Matthias Schweigofer who dons the twin hat of actor and director this time around, has outdone Zack Snyder, because this prequel is definitely more entertaining and pacy.

Just like the title suggests, this is a heist film, so don’t go expecting zombies and horror, or you’ll be very disappointed. Schweigofer plays Sebastian (who later takes the name of Dieter), a regular German dude with a boring bank job, but with an obsessive passion for cracking safes. The first few minutes are absolutely fascinating – Sebastian makes a YouTube video explaining the history of a locksmith called Hans Wagner, who built a series of four safes that attained a mythical status in the safe-cracking world and are still believed to be in use. So when a gang of thieves recruits Sebastian to go on a quest to crack all the Wagner safes, he is game.

Now this is the kind of heist film that doesn’t take things too seriously, so everything is a lot more simpler than it should be. The team itself is made up of 5 members, so ‘army’ is a huge exaggeration. Nathalie Emmanuel plays Gwendoline, kind of the leader of the pack. Stuart Martin is Brad, the muscle/action hero of the group and there’s the mandatory genius hacker played by Ruby O Fee. Guz Khan has a small part as Rolph, the getaway driver. Each of them get a quick back-story, which wasn’t really necessary. Instead, a little flashback to why Sebastian/Dieter is so obsessed with locks would have been more interesting.

Shot across European cities, the cinematography is gorgeous, especially when the action unfolds outdoor, against scenic mountains and colorful old buildings. You could make a lot of wallpapers out of this film. As mentioned in the beginning, it feels more like a fantasy movie, especially because of some of the classical and folksy music that plays in the background. And while Schweigofer as safe-cracker Dieter didn’t have much screen-time in ‘Army of the Dead’, here the actor carries off the lead role with panache. Nathalie however struggles to emote in some of the emotional (and unnecessary) scenes in the second-half.

The story takes place when a zombie outbreak has just occurred in Las Vegas and in a hilarious easter-egg – Dieter keeps dreaming of Zombies surrounding him, and a member jokes about how it could be a ‘prophecy’. While the movie is no laugh riot and makes everything too convenient, at least it never made me want to press the fast-forward button, like Army of the Dead did.

The climax was almost fun, and then it wasn’t, because they make it a little sentimental, as if this wasn’t a heist movie but a romantic drama. Overall, ‘Army of Thieves’ is more entertaining than its predecessor. It’s a 7/10 from me. Stream the film on Netflix.

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