After a covert military convoy out of Area 51 gets hit by drunken newlyweds, it seems that their payload is still secure – but it isn’t. A zombie-like warrior emerges, who, after killing all the soldiers around him, quickly sets his sights on the residents of nearby Las Vegas.
… Army of The Dead isn’t much for subtlety.
In the ensuing carnage, no one is spared. That said, a plucky band of survivalists each make it out with their own story to tell. However, having already survived the walled-up dangers of Las Vegas once, they are approached by casino owner Bly Tanaka with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Break back into Las Vegas and recover millions of dollars from his casino vault before the government incinerates the entire area. -Well, would you do it? Fortunately Zack Snyder, he of the Justice League Snyder Cut fame, has. Or rather he’s made a loud knock-a-bout zombie about it called Army of The Dead.
In what amounts to a bloody cocktail of Ocean 11 meets Escape From New York – with zombies, Army of The Dead isn’t much for subtlety. Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Dave Bautista is the defacto leader and after handpicking his squad of badasses and bad girls, he’s ready to go in. However, there are many catches that will come at him (both announced and unannounced) as his group ventures inside the Las Vegas strip. What isn’t in doubt though is Zak Snyder’s flair for comic book actioners – and now freed of the angsty-I-must-do-right seriousness of his DC movies, this one feels like much more lighter-hearted fare.
There’s lots of blurry, right-up-close cinematography for the gore-y moments and the dialogue is just about serviceable whilst never really straying off its intended course. Tig Navarro, a late digitally comped-in replacement for somebody who’s quickly fallen from grace is the group’s chopper pilot. In what amounts to a hybrid of a Murdoch from the A-Team and Colette Hiller’s Corporal Ferro from James Cameron’s Aliens, her performance is definitely “in the pipe, five by five” so to speak. Nora Arnezeder also impresses as Lily, a jaded mercenary who knows her way infected street of Las Vegas, whilst sadly Fear The Walking Dead‘s Garret Dillahunt struggles to convince as their tag-along babysitter. As for everyone else, they’re pretty much zombie chowder.
-Who will survive? -Who will see the money? Well, in no particular shock to nobody, you probably won’t care. In a movie where the zombies get a better back story than the heroes, the emphasis on the group’s violent methods of dispatch clearly got a bigger investment than their origins.
So, in the end, and somewhat not unsurprisingly, the movie rests on the sizeable shoulders of Dave Bautista. With his increasingly varied resumé of movie roles, it has to be said that he’s much better than the material. Often carving out much more nuanced performances, unfortunately, Bautista isn’t particularly well-served by Army of The Dead. The dialogue often feels like lead on his lips and that’s no fault of the big man, as anyone who saw Bladerunner 2049 can testify to.
What you will remember Army of The Dead for – are the zombies. As agile as those in World War Z, Zack Snyder’s movie still manages to expand the zombie movie lore with an interesting tribalistic dynamic. So, as a result, in what amounts to a multicolour splatter fest with big guns and even bigger slow-motion set pieces there’s still plenty to enjoy in this Friday night welcome-to-the-weekend movie. However, the movie and the soundtrack’s best cut belongs to 1980s popsters Culture Club with their hit “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” Zak Synder clearly does and you might well too as he goes about his business.