Army of Thieves is a heist comedy film directed by Matthias Schweighöfer in 2021, based on a scenario he devised with Zack Snyder and based on a script by Shay Hatten.
It is a precursor to Army of the Dead and the sequel to the Army of the Dead trilogy; it stars Schweighöfer, who reprises his role as Ludwig Dieter, as well as Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee, Stuart Martin, Guz Khan, and Jonathan Cohen in supporting roles. Filming began in October 2020 in Germany and the Czech Republic and ended in December 2020. Army of Thieves premiered on Netflix on October 29, 2021. Critics have given it mostly favourable reviews.
Ludwig Dieter, also known as Sebastian, works as a bank teller and goes by Ludwig Dieter. Despite the fact that news of a burgeoning zombie epidemic in Nevada dominated international news, its repercussions have yet to reach continental Europe, Ludwig still has dreams about zombies. Ludwig also spends his free time making YouTube videos on safecracking, which go unnoticed until one of them receives a remark from a mystery character inviting him to an underground safecracking tournament in the city. Ludwig enters the tournament and is welcomed by Gwendoline, a proficient burglar who exposes herself to be the mystery individual who commented on Ludwig’s video.
Gwendoline enlists Ludwig’s help in forming a heist gang that includes herself, professional hacker Korina, getaway driver Rolph, and shooter Brad Cage, with the goal of robbing banks that house famed locksmith Wagner’s safe, which now belong to millionaire Tanaka. After being persuaded by Gwendoline about the difficulty of breaking into a Wagner safe, Ludwig, an expert in Wagner’s work but with no experience, chooses to join. The group successfully robs the 1st safe in Paris, but they escape with a less sum of money than what is actually in the safe, which Gwendoline justifies by claiming that the challenge and reputation are more important.
As the team celebrates the theft in Paris, Ludwig develops affections for Gwendoline, causing Brad, Gwendoline’s lover from their teenage years when he was known by his true name of Alexis, to be envious. Delacroix, an obsessive Interpol agent directing a squad that has been seeking to arrest Gwendoline and the gang for years after Brad shot him during a robbery, follows the group to Prague, where the second safe is situated. Ludwig and Gwendoline enter the bank, but security quickly recognises them, causing Brad to enter to stage a heist as a distraction.
While Delacroix and his colleagues run to the bank to intercept them, Ludwig opens the second safe and flees with Gwendoline and another load of cash. Brad gets wounded in the shoulder by a security guard and just avoids Ludwig and Gwendoline entering the bank. As the crew flees, Brad purposefully leaves Ludwig behind, leaving him to run alone from the following cops.
Gwendoline and Korina depart the team, enraged at Brad’s actions, despite having already promised to dump Ludwig after the three heists were completed. Gwendoline and Korina return to Munich and meet up with Ludwig, informing him that the Wagner challenge is more important to them than any financial benefit.
Delacroix’s squad believes they have a lead on the robbery, only to discover that Ludwig, Gwendoline, and Korina had kidnapped the safe during its transit from the casino where it is kept. Their takeover also thwarts Brad and Rolph’s plot to rob the safe on their own. As Gwendoline and Ludwig board a lorry to depart St. Moritz, Brad and Rolph find that they are also in St. Moritz and pursue them. Interpol apprehends Korina, but she manages to tell Gwendoline and Ludwig about Brad and Rolph ahead of time.
Ludwig is forced to attempt to break the safe at the back of the lorry as Brad, Rolph, and Interpol are all pursuing it. He succeeds, and when he unlocks the safe, he discovers yet another enormous sum of money for them to take. Rolph and an increasingly psychologically disturbed Brad approach Gwendoline and Ludwig as they begin to depart with it. Before departing with Ludwig, Gwendoline overpowers them both and binds them to the vehicle for Interpol to locate.
Scott Ward and Maria Cruz arrive in California some time later at Ludwig’s locksmith shop, which is named after Gwendoline. They give him the chance to breach Wagner’s legendary’missing’ safe, which Gwendoline had sworn to crack with Ludwig once she was free. Ludwig takes the job, which sets the stage for the events in Army of the Dead.
Scott Ward and Maria Cruz arrive in California some time later at Ludwig’s locksmith shop, which is named after Gwendoline. They give him the chance to breach Wagner’s legendary’missing safe, which Gwendoline had sworn to crack with Ludwig once she was free. Ludwig takes the job, which sets the stage for the events in Army of the Dead.
If a prequel was absolutely required, witnessing what Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) and his squad went through when the zombie apocalypse erupted could have sufficed. Instead, in favour of a yawn-inducing descent into nothingness, Schweighöfer’s prequel loses the winning mix this endearing character held in Snyder’s film.
Of course, heist movies tend to be identical and predictable, and “Army of Thieves” leans in to the genre’s aesthetic, although subtly. You’ve got the usual suspects: the assembling of a team of highly specialised specialists, the double-cross that turns out to be a triple-cross, and the plot that appears to have failed only to reveal that the failure was part of the plan.