Army of the Dead

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Army of the Dead
dir Zack Snyder
scr Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold
prd Deborah Snyder, Wesley Coller, Zack Snyder
with Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighofer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raul Castillo, Huma Qureshi
release US/UK 21.May.21
21/US Netflix 2h28

sanada notaro castillo

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Arneseder, samantha win, de la reguera, bautista and hardwick
With wildly over-the-top violence, this rousing action epic centres around an elaborate heist in a city overrun by murderous undead. The extended running time lets filmmaker Zack Snyder indulge in super-sized fight sequences while stirring in plenty of snappy interaction between the large ensemble, even if the character development is minimal. And these aren't your usual zombies: they're sentient and organised, and they like to play with their food.
Overrun by ravenous walking dead, Las Vegas is walled off, and the plan is to drop a nuke in four days. Casino boss Tanaka (Sanada) left $200 million in untraceable cash in his safe, so he hires military hero Scott (Bautista) to retrieve it. Scott's team includes beefy best pal Vanderohe (Hardwick), mechanic Maria (de la Reguera), safecracker Dieter (Schwrighofer), a zombie hunter (Castillo) and pilot (Notaro). They're joined by Tanaka's swaggering security chief (Dillahunt), two meatheads (Arneseder and Ross) and Scott's estranged daughter Kate (Purnell). Clearly this won't be as easy-peasy as promised.
Snyder has a lot of fun with Vegas tropes, including undead showgirls and Elvis impersonators, while the quarantined Strip looks like a hellish version of Burning Man ("We should have nuked Vegas in the early 90s," Notaro deadpans). And the crew's first encounter is with a zombie tiger that'll obviously be back later. The soundtrack is loaded with witty cover tunes, while ongoing sarcastic banter provides some texture amid the carnage. But even with so much stuffed into this movie, it feels oddly thin, entertaining without being particularly satisfying.

While the father-daughter stuff remains underdeveloped, Bautista adeptly provides a fine balance between characters who are comical, emotional or thuggish (he's all three). This mix helps maintain a snarky sense of earthiness in the elaborately staged set-pieces that range from hushed and intense to loud and chaotic. Each actor gets to deploy some zinging one-liners, which creates scene-stealers out of Notaro and Schweighofer. Oddly, it's one of the zombies who gets the most heartfelt moment.

The narrative unfolds slasher-style, as team members are violently dispatched one by one. And a continual stream of twists adds a bit of intrigue to the otherwise simple plot. Of course several of these people are hiding secrets, the government has its own shifty agenda, and the countdown accelerates dramatically. So while it's always watchable, the structure is too familiar and contrived to allow for any real suspense. Still, there's still plenty of grisly, nasty fun along the way.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 21.May.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall