ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)
Bombastic fun on a grandiose scale, Zack Snyder’s foray back into the world of zombies with Army of the Dead is rich in action, but lacking in both story and acting talent, resulting in a film that simply breaks even.
After a massive zombie outbreak results in Las Vegas becoming a walled off city infested with the undead, a former zombie war hero (Dave Bautista) puts together a team to head in and retrieve $200 million cash before the government nukes the Strip. It’s clear that Snyder had a ton of fun with this project, revisiting the zombie genre and taking things up a notch with a smarter, more agile undead and a lot of promise for how the implications of the actions within this film could lead into other stories (coming soon to Netflix). As a fan of Snyder’s work, all of the trademarks of his films are noticeable here: dramatic camera angles, consistent play with focus, and a lot of moving pieces that bring you right into the world he has built. Similarly, some of the consistent criticisms the director receives also plague this ambitious production, starting with the length of the film. Army of the Dead is entirely too long and hits a number of lulls while attempting to progress the emotional subplots that truly didn’t need attention. What did need attention was the overarching exploration of the different types of zombies, the individual character building, and the script itself, filled with inclusions that are simply unbelievable (even in a zombie flick).
The cast is also a bit of a miss for the film; I am still not sold on Dave Bautista as a leading man. While he certainly can deliver on the action front, it’s unclear to me whether his ability to explore his character’s emotions is lacking or the writing failed him. The writing certainly did not help Tig Notaro, a late addition to the film whose intended lines of comic relief and humorous quips fell flat each and every time. The standouts in the cast of characters are absolutely tough guy Omari Hardwick, Matthias Schweighöfer’s hilarious safe-cracking Dieter, and Raul Castillo’s Mikey Guzman; the three are scene-stealers from start to finish. Ella Purnell puts in a fine performance, but her character’s arc is lacking and unestablished.
So the question is: what are you watching Army of the Dead for? Likely the gory zombie kills and the intense action, which Snyder absolutely delivers in entertaining fashion. It’s the rest of the pieces that take a film from good to great that are missing throughout.
Army of the Dead is now playing in select theaters and streams on Netflix Friday.
Photo from Netflix