Netflix's Heist Thriller 'Army of Thieves' Could Use More Zombies

This prequel to Zack Snyder's 'Army of the Dead' trades the undead for more safe-cracking.

Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix
Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix
Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix

The best moments in Netflix’s Army of Thieves, an oddly slight heist-centric prequel to Zack Snyder’s gargantuan Vegas bloodbath Army of the Dead, mostly involve the camera sliding through the interlocking mechanisms of various comically elaborate safes that need cracking. In these brief scenes, bits of metal click together, gears grind, and cylinders fall exactly into place. The special effects team and director Matthias Schweighöfer, who also stars as the gifted safecracker Ludwig Dieter, make the inner-workings of these objects, named after German composer Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle according to the movie’s convoluted backstory, look like miniature steampunk planets. The film presents safecracking as a quasi-romantic, supernatural performance.

These bits of fanciful puzzle-solving make the rest of the movie, a self-consciously derivative riff on staples like Ocean’s 11 and The Italian Job, feel a bit uninspired. Did anyone walk out of Army of the Dead, an often overstuffed epic that barreled from one set-piece to the next, with a burning desire to know how exactly Dieter got to America? The main selling point of Snyder’s film from earlier this year was seeing the slick conventions of the heist genre get mashed up with the carnage-filled tropes of the zombie genre, specifically by the guy who made 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Here, the undead take a back seat. Yes, there’s a zombie apocalypse playing out in the background on TV, and the lurching flesh-eaters appear in a couple dream sequences, but they’re almost entirely absent from the main plot.

 Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix
Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix
Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix

Instead, the script, written by Shay Hatten from a story by Hatten and Snyder, follows Dieter on his journey from unpopular YouTube safecracking personality to go-to-guy for a ring of criminals led by Nathalie Emmanuel’s charming Gwendoline. Compared to the Army of the Dead squad, the Army of Thieves crew is quite small: There’s a muscle-man named Brad Cage (Stuart Martin), who named himself after Brad Pitt and Nicolas Cage; a getaway driver named Rolph (Guz Khan); and a tech-savvy hacker named Korina (Ruby O. Fee), who got her start as a thief by pirating a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel and posting it online. Collectively, they figure that the world slowly unraveling should give them decent cover for their schemes.

If you didn’t notice from those brief character descriptions above, Army of Thieves is peppered with references and allusions to other films and bits of pop culture. (At one point, there’s a joke about Zac Efron turning into a zombie.) Almost every character, from the quippy protagonist to the random security guards, takes a second to acknowledge the sheer movie-ness of the situations they find themselves in, a stylistic choice that can be clever at times but grows self-defeating as the movie progresses. Why undercut the bursts of genuine tension by endlessly calling attention to the artifice?

It’s a shame because Army of Thieves, like Army of the Dead, does have a handful of effective set-pieces. The safecracking sequences are lively, the central romance has some spark, and, toward the middle of the film, Schweighöfer stages a delightful chase scene on a bicycle that hits the right tone of comic exhilaration. These moments offer a glimpse into the breezy heist movie this could have been. But too many other factors, from the presence of the zombies in the background to the need to tie the story back into the larger Snyder-verse at the end, prevent the film from unlocking its true potential. Most of the fun stays hidden inside a vault. Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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