Army of the Dead
Turns out the zombie film is far from dead – whilst Army of the Dead doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it is executed with impressive skill. This zombie heist movie, directed by Zack Snyder, is a satisfying entry to the genre created by George A Romero (whose seminal Night of the Living Dead film series is invoked in the title).
Unlike Romero’s films, this one isn’t concerned about making a wider social point with the utility of undead humans. Rather, it wants to entertain a compelling “what if?” scenario wherein Las Vegas is a quarantined hub. After an inexplicable experiment gone wrong at Area 51, Sin City becomes a base for an army of mutated, posthumous superhumans who have been contained by the government, sealed off from the rest of America.
The city is on the verge of nuclear detonation but, before that’s confirmed, a group of proficient individuals who can form a strong heist setup are recruited by a millionaire (Hiroyuki Sanada) to steal $200m from a casino vault. With his patented visual flair, Snyder builds an intriguing world, especially with the depiction of intelligent zombies. But it’s not without a couple of broad issues.
The big criticism of the director’s otherwise terrific cut of Justice League is its runtime: four hours long, thanks to narrative bloat and excessive slow motion; Watchmen ran for over two and a half hours and Sucker Punch clocked in at 108 minutes, which was 107 minutes too long. Lengthiness is nothing new for Snyder, at least when his vision is fulfilled – and the habit prevails here, but the reality is that this movie has no business lasting over two hours. It’s a compact plot wherein most of the characters aren’t given a hook, simply serving a stock purpose: there’s the jerk (Theo Rossi), the comic relief (Matthias Schweighöfer), the hidden agenda type (Nora Arnezeder), the wisecracker (Tig Notaro), and so on. Even the collective idea of them is clichéd – they’re the ragtag bunch of misfits.
However, there is someone to latch onto in this effectively realised world – Dave Bautista. As the film’s beating heart, the actor brings the grit, gravity and pathos needed to play Scott Ward, a mercenary whose motivation to take the money lies in his daughter’s legacy after he loses his wife to the virus.
Overall, Army of the Dead looks and sounds splendid, features a strong performance at the centre and represents a director working without the compromise of budget or artistry.
Army of the Dead is released on Netflix on 21st May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Army of the Dead here: