Army of the Dead
army of the dead | zack snyder | shay hatten | joby harold | dave bautista | ella purnell | ana de la reguera | zombie | zombies | post-apocalyptic | action | crime | sci-fi | thriller | united states | omari hardwick | theo rossi | nora arnezeder | hiroyuki sanada
Film: Army of the Dead
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten and Joby Harold
Starring: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell and Ana de la Reguera
This was a movie that caught my attention due to the title. It is definitely a play on the classic George A. Romero series of the Dead films. Knowing that this was co-writer/director Snyder’s return to the zombie genre, I was intrigued to give this one a watch. Outside of that, I didn’t know a lot and really the only aspect I haven’t shared was that it takes place in Las Vegas. The synopsis here is a following a zombie outbreak in Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the great heist ever attempted.
We start this movie off with a convoy that is leaving Area 51. They’re taken extreme precautions, but despite this, they run into a problem. A newlywed couple from Las Vegas isn’t paying attention and cause a major accident. In the process, they release the cargo. This turns out to be a super strong zombie that kills and infects this unit of soldiers. They venture into the nearby city of Vegas and run amok.
The movie then gives us a montage to get us up to speed. Las Vegas was quarantined off, sealing all of the zombies inside. There were some soldiers who made a name for themselves during this and they’re led by Scott Ward (Dave Bautista). Once we shift to present day, his life has fallen apart. He no longer speaks to his daughter and he’s a cook in a road side diner. Things change though when Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) comes in and offers him a job. There is a lot of money sealed in his vault of a casino in Vegas. He wants Scott to get a team together, go in and get it, taking a cut for themselves.
Scott has his apprehensions, but decides the amount of money is life changing, enough to risk his own. He reaches out to Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera). They were close during the battle in Vegas, but they’ve grown distant since. She agrees to join and they’re primarily splitting the money. They also seek out Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) along with Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro) as their primary choices. Marianne will be their pilot. They also need a safe-cracker which brings them to Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer). They also enlist the aid of Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo) who is a crack shot and he brings Chambers (Samantha Win).
They meet with Bly who tells them what the plan is. He wants one of his guys to go with him and his head of security is assigned, Martin (Garret Dillahunt). The group needs to find a way in. Scott is forced to reach out to Kate (Ella Purnell), his estranged daughter. She is a volunteer at a camp of refugees in the quarantine zone. They also need to use a coyote, Lilly (Nora Arnezeder) to get them into Vegas. Burt Cummings (Theo Rossi) is a guard in the camp who gets enlisted as well. He isn’t well liked by Kate or the others who deal with him regularly.
Things become problematic from the start. Kate wants to come along when Lilly left her friend of Geeta (Huma Qureshi) inside of Vegas. The President of the United States has also authorized the use of a nuclear weapon to level the zombies inside. Not all of these zombies are mindless, Romero corpses. There are some that are highly intelligent and strong like the original. They are led by Zeus (Richard Cetrone) and are much more organized than anyone aside from Lilly realizes. They have very little time to make it to the vault, crack it and get to the money. Not everyone can be trusted though and with how dangerous this is, it feels like a suicide mission.
Now that is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie. Where I should start first is bracing you for this two and half hour movie. Something funny was that I was warned before coming in about the length and how Snyder really needs someone to edit his movies for him. What I will say is that I had fun with this movie, but he was right, this is also too long.
Where I want to start with the positives is the idea of this movie. This feels like Snyder took what he did with the Dawn of the Dead remake and then added more of his own flair to it. I actually really like the idea of the mythology here. The alpha zombie that got out has created his own army of zombies that are super strong and fast like him. It is interesting that Lilly states that they’re treating Vegas like it is a kingdom. I didn’t realize until writing this, the lead zombie is named Zeus. It is fitting that he takes over a casino by the name of Olympus. This works that they’re like gods compared to the masses of normal zombies. I do think the story does well in establishing the lore for these creatures and sticking with it.
Next would be another aspect to this movie. I did see a post of some people on Facebook debating if this is a heist movie. That was something I reflected on after seeing it. In general, this isn’t a traditional heist movie. There is a vault and it needs to be opened. We are really getting more of an action movie with horror elements. While watching this, it feels like one of Snyder’s comic book movies while mixing in Dawn of the Dead and Peninsula, the sequel to Train to Busan. This all makes it entertaining for sure.
There is a bit of social commentary here as well. This is an interesting move to release during a pandemic. There are talks of people being kept in camps like we see along the border to Mexico. This has upset quite a bit of people, which this makes sense. They’re actually American citizens, but doctors aren’t sure if they’re infected or not. There is also the virus that is causing people to become zombies which correlates to COVID-19. Then the last bit is how the President in the movie is acting. It is akin to Donald Trump. I’m not going to go farther than that, but I wanted to point this out.
What this movie tries to do is create emotion here. They attempt this with Guzman toward Chambers. There is Scott with Maria and Kate. It didn’t work or connect with me though. That is the reason I compare it more toward Peninsula. They even try to make you feel something with Zeus to his Alpha Queen (Athena Perample). I do honestly think the long runtime affects this. There is so much that I check out and lose some of the feeling it is wanting me to feel. Heck, even when the stakes are raised for the characters to get out, it doesn’t feel like it as this run too slow even there.
Now I don’t want you to think this is boring though. That’s not the case. This movie has quite a bit of action in it. I was pleasantly surprised that this movie had a lot of practical effects to go with it. There is some solid blood and gore that really impressed me for a movie like this. I like that they got stunt actors and actresses to play the alphas as they’re able to move their bodies in interesting ways. The make up and their look were also well done. This is an action film, something I want to reinforce here. If that is something you’re not into, I think that will turn you off. We do also get some CGI, but seeing some of Snyder’s previous films, it looks good. I like how this movie is shot and the state of Vegas. I would say on the whole, this aspect of the movie was well done.
Where I should shift next would be the acting. Baustista was good as our lead here. Part of this is his look and size. I also think he’s a solid actor. I’m glad to see him getting more lead roles in action films. Purnell is fine. Her character is predictable though. She is quite attractive as well. Hardwick was solid and he plays well off Schweighöfer. They brought some natural comedy. Reguera was fine along with Arnezeder and Castillo. The smaller role from Rossi was solid. Notaro also brought some solid comedy with her role. I also liked the roles of Sanada and Dillahunt, both of them fit for what was needed. I do want to give credit as well to all of the zombies, especially those playing alphas. Perample and Albert Valladares get more screen time than most and they really take advantage in a good way.
Then really the last thing to go into would be the soundtrack. It isn’t a score that is going be a classic for me. For the most part, it fits the scenes for what was needed. I do want to commend for selecting a cover of Bad Moon Rising, another of Viva Las Vegas with Richard Cheese. They did also use The Cranberries’ Zombie as well. This felt like the Dawn remake which is another soundtrack from a Snyder film that is well done.
That is about the extent of what I wanted to go over here, so in conclusion, I had fun with this movie. I think that it is an interesting film from Snyder that is a bit different from what he’s known for. It almost feels like going back to his roots with the Dawn remake. There is some good and interesting take on the zombie mythology. The effects were solid and it really embraces being an action movie. Thought the acting was fine and there was some decent humor. The movie does run too long though and it hurts the heart it is trying to give us. I will say that the soundtrack is pretty solid. Overall though, I would say this is an above average movie. Some minor things tweaked and trim some of the fat, this could have been better.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10