Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★

During the opening credits of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, you can nearly feel the director’s giddy smile stretching across the hedonistic melee. In Las Vegas, flesh-eating zombies are beginning to outnumber the casinos. And they’re consuming unsuspecting tourists just as quickly. Cannibalistic showgirls prowl for prey. Slot-machine junkies bundling up their remaining pittance dodge the newly infected. A dimwitted Elvis impersonator, wig askew, looks blankly over the carnage as Richard Cheese’s elegiac cover of “Viva Las Vegas” soundtracks the zany bloodshed. It’s the rare instance where a film’s climax occurs in the first few minutes.

Following the unrestrained freakout, Snyder’s thriller dons the clothes of an epic heist flick: Months after the fall of Vegas, a rich hotel owner with government ties, Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), enlists a group of mercenaries to infiltrate the overrun sin city. In the basement of his former hotel sits $200 million worth of tax-free money, locked away in a nearly impenetrable safe. Leading the team is the hulking Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), who saved the Secretary of Defense from the Vegas catastrophe and earned a medal, but is now flipping burgers in a low-rent diner. He assembles a rag-tag group of former acquaintances and new faces for the mission, including his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), and together, they head out on what seems like a near-suicide mission. They have to secure the money within 48 hours, because the U.S. is about to drop a nuclear warhead on the forsaken city.

Army of the Dead’s whopping 148-minute runtime is tidy compared to the director’s 242-minute Justice League cut. But both films brim with wonderful concepts, captivating setpieces, and obtrusive worldbuilding that shrouds the earnest merits behind their primary narrative: a fraught parent-child relationship. With fast-moving zombies, big guns, and even bigger personalities, Snyder’s Army of the Dead will satiate the hardcore fanbase the director has accrued, even when his oversized ambitions slow it to a crawl. [full review via Polygon]