Netflix is trying to make or rather forcing franchises, hoping its viewers will like such franchises. The first is David Ayer’s Bright franchise which succeeded but two is enough. The second is the Army franchise, starting with Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, which I didn’t care to watch because I have taste. The second Army installment, Matthias Schweighofer’s Army of Thieves, is a prequel. Schweighofer double duties as both director and lead actor, playing a failing YouTuber, Ludwig Dieter, whose niche happens to be historical safes. During hsi day job he’s an in person customer service representative, which been there never again. Despite his bad job he can still afford rent in Munich because 80 years after the war, Germany got is game together, relatively.
Anyway, even the most obscure YouTubers have their one viewer. That viewer is Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), a member of the prequel’s titular army of four. She hopes that Ludwig joins them because they need the best man to crack one of the subjects of his videos. That subject happens to be the four safes that some guy named Hans Wagner (Christian Steyer) made back in the day. Safes so good that credit unions, banks, and casinos all over Europe still use these safes. As an aside, in making these safes Wagner took inspiration from that Wagner, which I get that Wagner is an opera singer’s Hamlet, but how dare anyone bring up Wagner in the year of our lord 2021. I dated a Jewish guy who liked Wagner, like love yourself. In fairness, there’s also something Wagnerian about the first film’s direction, which is also kind of a red flag.
It’s understandable that cinema is about attractive women and their attractive male counterparts who are pretending to be ugly. I’ll go to the movie’s whopping three female characters. But patriarchy still rules so let’s start with making fun of the men. Schweighofer is 5’11 and blond and has biceps he’s trying to hide. I mean, things can be worse, he can be some vainglorious actor slash wannabe auteur. But his cosplaying as a slapstick nerd is offensive to me, a real nerd. Schweighofer also reinforces Ludwig’s nerd status by flanking himself with different brands of male hubris.
The first of two villains is Delacroix (Jonathan Cohen), an Interpol agent trying to stop the titular army whose stubbornness stops him from doing his job. The second is a member of the army, Brad Cage (Stuart Martin). In this universe Brad Cage is an angsty rich boy, in another alternate universe he would have been a celebrity antivaxxer with a rich dad. Or a generic influencer. Attractiveness can only take an actor so far. And Martin is trying his best despite of the mustache twirling character that Schweighofer gave him. Rolph (Gus Khan) is the Army’s fourth member who drives everyone around. And he is less of a villain as he is a non-entity and a yes man.
Ok fine, let’s get to the women, because the female actors here are the only reasons to watch Army. Ruby O. Fee’s Korina is the final member of the titular army who hacks into the banks. She does seem too archetypally cool girl but that’s mostly because of Shay Hatten’s script. Noemie Nakai’s Beatrix is the sane member of the Interpol compared to Delacroix. And last but not least, there’s Emmanuel. Reading reviews of Schweighofer’s previous work scared me into thinking of how male gaze-y Army is and thus its depiction of her, but she gives the camera enough while giving her character some smarts. She’s the movie’s saving grace. And the movie itself isn’t male gaze-y and its glossiness and Nolan slash Zimmer thievery are tolerable.
Army of Thieves comes out in Canada on Netflix tomorrow.
- Rated: TV-MA
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller
- Release Date: 10/29/2021
- Directed by: Matthias Schweighöfer
- Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ruby O. Fee
- Produced by: Dan Maag, Matthias Schweighöfer
- Written by: Shay Hatten
- Studio: Film United, Pantaleon Films, The Stone Quarry