‘ARMY of Thieves’ is a prequel to the hit Zack Snyder ultra violent zombie heist movie set in Las Vegas, “Army of the Dead”. It centers on the story of Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer), the goofy German safecracker in “Army of the Dead”, before he came to America.
This time, Schweighofer himself directs the movie and we learn that his character’s real name is Sebastian Schlecnt-Wohnert. How he changed it to Ludwig Dieter will be explained in the movie.
He lives a pretty routine life as a dorky bank teller in Potsdam. At that time, the zombie outbreak in Las Vegas is just starting.
Sebastian lives alone, without friends or family. As a pastime, he makes online videos on safecracking but he only got one hit, from someone who tells him to join a secret safecracking contest. He goes to the clandestine venue and is pushed to join it at the last minute. As maybe expected, he wins it, complete with shots of safety gears whirling and clicking into place.
It turns out the unknown person who told him about the contest is Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel, “Game of Thrones”, “Fast and Furious 9”) and she’s also the one who entered his name in the competition without even asking his permission.
Earlier, Sebastian tells us about a legendary locksmith, Hans Wagner, who created four iconic safes that will be a tough challenge for anyone to crack. They’re named after classical composer Richard Wagner’s ring cycle: Rheingold, Valkyrie, Siegfried and the most formidable of all, Gotterdamerung.
Gwendoline is an expert thief and she asks Sebastian to join her team to break into all the safes. Three of them are into banks that belong to filthy rich businessman Bly Tanaka, who is also in “Army of the Dead”. Sebastian agrees to join Gwendoline’s team since it is obvious that he is smitten and has developed feelings for her.
The other members of their team are Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), a handsome muscleman who got his name from Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage; Korina (Ruby Fee, who’s Matthias’ girlfriend in real life), an expert hacker; and Rolf (Guz Khan), their getaway driver.
They succeed in their first mission to open the Rheingold safe in Paris and they take only some of the cash in it and not all, as Gwendoline says their main aim is that they are able to achieve the heist. As Sebastian grows close to Gwendoline, her boyfriend Brad, gets jealous and becomes very hostile to Sebastian.
A driven interpol agent, Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen)becomes obsessed in arresting them, and follows them to Prague where they will stage the second heist. Sebastian once again succeeds in cracking the safe but they are discovered by security men and cops pursue them as they go out.
Brad helps Gwendoline get into their getaway van but he deliberately leaves Sebastian behind so he is forced to escape by running and boarding on a moving train. Gwendoline and Korina get mad with Brad for what he did to Sebastian and decide to leave their group to join Sebastian in Potsdam so they can go to the last safe to crack in plush St. Moritz. Brad aims to get ahead of them and Delacroix is so determined to catch them.
Will they still be able to get away with it? The last scene will answer the question as to how Sebastian becomes part of “Army of the Dead”, with the surprise cameo appearances of Dave Bautista and Anna de la Reguerra who are cast members of the said movie. Hello, Vegas! Hello, Gotterdamerung, the fourth safe!
As an actor, Matthias has a natural endearing presence with ample comic charms that serve him well. He quickly wins our trust as the small town bank teller with a good heart who embarks on an exciting adventure of a lifetime with the arrival of the alluring but mysterious Gwendoline in his life that changes it forever.
And in “Army of Thieves”, he shows that he’s not only an amiable actor but also a competent director. This is his first movie in English after directing three German films. The first big scene in the movie quickly establishes the movie’s goofy tone. It shows the geeky Sebastian unwittingly joining an underground safecracking tournament where all his competitors are wearing stylish outfits and look more like wizards competing in a Harry Potter magical contest.
They’re supposed to open a series of safes that become increasingly complex and difficult. And here’s Sebastian whose knowledge is all theoretical and doesn’t have an actual experience yet in opening safes. But he wins! And the rabid crowd of viewers around them cheer boisterously for him!
Thanks to Matthias stylish kind of directing he is able to pull off such scenes cleverly with an astute sense of the material’s ridiculous nature. Thanks also for the great support of the very sexy, good looking Nathalie and Ruby who are perfect eye candies and the hunky Stuart who looks like he’s a cousin of Hugh Jackman.
If you’d just consider it as another glossy escapist fare and not take it too seriously, you’ll surely find the movie quite an entertaining confection perfect to while your time away. This serves as Matthias’ official calling card as a filmmaker to watch out for in Hollywood.