Friday , July 19 2024

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Army of the Dead’ – Super Zombies Run Amok

Writer and director Zach Synder’s Army of the Dead seems like a cross between Escape from New York and The Walking Dead. In many ways, it is an indirect sequel to his film Dawn of the Dead (2004),which was a remake of the George M. Romero classic Dawn of the Dead (1978). Those familiar with the SynderVerse will find much to enjoy in this slam bang romp.

The best thing this film has going for it is Dave Bautista. I have always been a huge fan of his, and anyone who has watched his turns as Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows that he has a commanding presence. I always wanted more Drax, so if you feel that way too you’ll be pleased with this film.

Bautista stars as decorated mercenary Scott Ward who is asked to go into the walled city of Las Vegas (where zombies rule the streets after a military accident releases a zombie that starts making more zombies immediately) and retrieve $200 million for casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada). Ward will get $50 million if he and his team are successful in retrieving the money.

There are, of course, obstacles. Besides the fenced in zombie horde awaiting their arrival, the money isn’t just lying around on the office desks. It is locked in an nearly impregnable safe. Add to this the fact that Ward’s estranged daughter Kate (a terrific Ella Purnell) insists on going along for the ride to find her friend Geeta (Huma Quershi) who got stuck inside the city. Ward doesn’t want to take her, but she knows someone named Lily (Nora Arnezeder) who has smuggled things in and out of the walled of zone, and that will prove invaluable on the mission.

Ward’s assembled team includes old friends Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), guide Lily, helicopter pilot Peters (Tig Notaro), safe-cracker Dieter (a hilarious Matthias Swigerhofer), sharpshooter Guzman (Raul Castillo), his buddy Chambers (Samantha Win), and a misogynist quarantine guard Cummings (Theo Rossi). Bly’s right hand Martin (Garret Dillahunt) rounds out the team. Ward doesn’t exactly trust Martin and wonders why he is along for the ride.

Once inside a destroyed Las Vegas, the team sees a zombie tiger called Valentine – apparently it used to be in Ziegfried and Roy’s show – but they evade it and make their way toward the casino. It is here that they discover a group of super zombies that run fast and make intelligent choices. They are lead by their Queen (Athena Perample) and King Zues (Richard Cetrone). The group offers a sacrifice to this duo (no spoilers here), and they allow them to pass.

Once they get to the casino, they are informed that the president has ordered the city to be nuked. They have 90 minutes to crack the safe, gather the money, and fly to safety in a helicopter that has more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese. As Peters tries to repair the copter, the rest of the crew heads into the casino to get the money.

In a quiet moment we get to see Kate and Ward come to a reconciliation. When Kate’s mom (Colby Lemmo) turned into a zombie, Ward had to kill her as she was trying to break into a room to get Kate. They resolve their differences, and this is great character building and really shows why Bautista should get more work at the top of the cast list.

Snyder’s cinematography is brilliant, showing the destruction of the buildings of one of the world’s most famous cities. He also captures the fast-paced action in a way to make you feel like you’re on the run from these sprinting creepers. Tom Holkenborg’s musical score emphasizes the action in ways that enhance the frenetic tension involved in those scenes.

Army of the Dead is a great summer movie where many things go boom. It also brings sentient zombies into a genre that doesn’t offer us much more than slow footed zombies that are easy to kill. These zombies are more reminiscent of Romero’s Bub in Day of the Dead, who even salutes a creepy villain before he is torn to shreds.

I highly recommend Army of the Dead for your summer viewing list. Get your popcorn ready, but hold onto the box. It is truly a wonderful, bumpy ride.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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