Army of the Dead Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Netflix UK
Directed by Zack Snyder
Written by Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten and Joby Harold
2021, 148 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Released on 21st May 2021
Dave Bautista as Scott Ward
Ella Purnell as Kate Ward
Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe
Ana de la Reguera as Maria Cruz
After helping to resurrect the subgenre in 2004 with his Dawn of the Dead remake, Zack Snyder makes his long-awaited return to the cinema of the dead. Together with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, Snyder’s surprisingly great remake helped to make zombies popular again. Almost 20 years later, and we’re still riding that wave. Snyder’s Army of the Dead emerges to a no-longer-saturated-but-still-quite-busy market. This feels like the director going back to basics after spending so long tied up in the DC/WB machine.
Extreme violence? A heavily stylised credits montage set to a rousing Richard Cheese number? Iffy moralities? Lots of slow-mo? Yes, this is definitely a Zack Snyder joint. With Las Vegas overrun by a zombie uprising and walled off from the rest of the world, a gang of mercenaries agree to bust in and empty a casino vault of its billions. The catch? Zombies, and also an imminent nuke. It’s Oceans 11 meets Escape From New York.
Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) has his work cut out for him, but a massive team of badasses on hand to help out. They’re a thinly-sketched bunch with just enough personality for us to feel either happy or kind of bad when one of them dies. If there’s not much chemistry between them, that’s not surprising given the size of the cast and the fact that one of them was ported in, after the fact (Tig Notaro, green-screened in to replace edited-out comedian Chris D’Elia). Still, the archetypes work, and Garrett Dillahunt is exceptionally fun as the gang’s shady babysitter. On the basis of this men-on-a-mission movie, one has to wonder whether Snyder might have been better suited to Suicide Squad rather than his Justice League.
But then, action has always been Zack Snyder’s forte. The film’s action sequences are a riot, and he doesn’t skimp on the gore or brutalities. Any horror elements are underplayed in favour of big, explosive gunfights and scenes with Dave Bautista wrecking roomfuls of zombies with his bare hands. It’s more Dead Rising than Night or Dawn of the Dead; a Fast and Furious flick with zombies.
If it weren’t for the fact that its zombie apocalypse seems to be limited entirely to Las Vegas, Army of the Dead could have passed for a sequel to Snyder’s Dawn. Once again, his zombies are fast and extremely lethal. This time, however, they have smarts, too. Ruled over by a King and Queen of the dead, this horde is surprisingly layered, all without diluting their threat. It feels like heresy to say it, but Snyder may have pulled off smart zombies better than even Romero managed in his time. All this, and zombie wildlife too – zombie horses and a zombie tiger, leading to the best death-by-zombie scene since Day of the Dead.
While its zombies are smart, the film itself is anything but, and the characters even less so. It’s a film in which a team of highly trained, tactically brained mercenaries wander into a zombie-infested warzone wearing t-shirts and vest tops. It’s a film in which characters run off after a subplot half an hour before a nuclear missile strike. It’s… very much A Film by Zack Snyder, complete with its 148 minute runtime and questionable morality (in this case, Shaun Spicer of the Dead – for which the film loses ½ a star from me).
After spending far too long caught up in the cinematic universe generator, this is a solid – if bloated, thick-headed - return to form for the filmmaker. If the DC Cinematic Universe doesn’t want him, we’ll gladly have him back.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.