This Hollywood-style heist film from Germany builds an entertaining backstory to Netflix's action-heavy Army of the Dead, revolving around safecracker Dieter (aka Sebastian). Serving as a kind of European counterpart to the prior film, Army of Thieves focuses more on character than action, involves a multinational cast, and is set against gorgeous locations (much more pleasing than Dead's apocalyptic Vegas).
The cast is charismatic, especially leads Schweighöfer and Emmanuel, who both exude a sweetness missing in too many American action movies. The filming aims to be stylistically interesting as well in terms of some conscientiously arty framing and lighting.
A couple of getaway scenes through European landscapes are memorable, purposefully recalling Michael Caine classic The Italian Job.
Set (though not filmed) across Munich, Paris, Prague, and St. Moritz, the film borrows from other heist and action movies as well, doing so in an entirely self aware way. When a character sets up a sequence announcing it's the way it "would happen" in a heist movie, we understand exactly. When character Brad Cage, self named as a nod to hero Nicolas, is described as having grown up "watching American movies," we sense a wink and nod to star-director Schweighöfer himself and also to the kind of referential cinema he's constructing here.
In that sense, Army of Thieves is a perfect product for the global streaming age -- made locally but meant to appeal internationally, and shot in English.
Of course, you have to suspend some disbelief: Why is everyone speaking English? Is safe-cracking really just about having a keen ear? Why isn't anyone concerned about fingerprints?
But you notice this precisely because the film, which runs a tad long at just over two hours, aims for a certain amount of realism within the genre, and that in itself is commendable.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.