Former US president Lyndon Baines Johnson once described another US president thus: “He’s [Richard Nixon] like a Spanish horse, who runs faster than anyone for the first nine lengths and then turns around and runs backwards.”
“Army of the Dead” is exactly that: a Spanish horse running backwards.
It starts well, with galloping promise, six years before the zombie outbreak in the “Army of the Dead”.
Yeah, this is a prequel. So you can sit back and enjoy the backstory while experiencing the story.
Yeah, I know, confusing.
Well, let’s clear things up a little.
The story starts with Sebastian (Matthias Schweighöfer), a safecracker who puts together a YouTube video about four legendary safes that were designed based on the legendary Hans Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
That probably explains why his video got only one view, which came with a mysterious invitation to a safe-cracking competition in an underground setting reminiscent of Van Damme’s ‘Kumite’ in the movie Bloodsport.
All these criminals play easy stereotypes.
Gwendoline as the sexy black chick who does what she wants, Korina as the sexy Latina who is scheming and hypersexual, yet socially conservative.
Rolph is the Arabian with dark-skin, all swarthy and villainous. Then his light-skinned lead counterpart, Brad, has the Anglicized features of a low budget Hugh Jackman.
While Sebastian, yes him again, comes across as the Jekyll side of a Hitler Youth’s Hyde.
Immediately, they attempt to elevate themselves above the usual heist characters:
Brad: You know how sometimes in a heist movie, they show a flash-forward of how a heist should work?
Gwendoline: And it never goes according to plan, and everything gets messed up in some way.
Sebastian: Yes, I do know this.
Brad: Well, this one is actually going to go that smoothly.
“Army of Thieves”, after this initial promise, fills out it’s over 130 minutes with the kind of anticlimax that greets you when you sit down and order a beer and some pork at Café Javas.
A heist film, as a rule, brings together a motley crew of characters trying to steal something beyond the scenes of the movie they are in.
It is interlarded with subplots to make its telling compelling and as intricate as a tangled web.
This often leads to a twist, underscored by a comedy of errors and manners as the characters try to pull off a caper that seems beyond their skills set…while being suitable to the same.
“Army of Thieves”, however, fails to convincingly rise to these very basic elements of a good heist movie.