The Dead Don't Die ★★★★

Late-stage Jim Jarmusch is about just hanging out for a couple of hours in Jarmuschland with some amusing and interesting folks, and if some hijinks ensue so that we can stretch our legs for a bit, hey, so much the better. As an illegal immigrant in Jarmuschland, I'm always happy to visit. This must be how more refined individuals than myself feel about Bresson or Tarkovsky.

That all said, this is an easy film to hate if you're not into the schtick. Starting with those that walk into this expecting a zombie film as such, even of the humorous variety. Not yours. Plot threads and characters are picked up, put down, picked up again and abandoned like so many chewed off limbs. There's an entire subplot revolving around a group of three kids in juvie that's completely cut off from the rest of Centerville for the whole film, and it's unclear why they're even in the film. Tilda Swinton is there solely to be weird and cut off heads repeatedly. If I didn't haunt theaters routinely by myself, I'd be hesitant to bring someone with me to watch this because I'd probably get an annoyed scowl at the end for my trouble.

If The Dead Don't Die wasn't so goddamn funny, I could see despising it for its wankery. Which gets amplified considerable in the final ten minutes, to the point where even I was a little annoyed. But hey, where else are you going to get something this specifically weird. Jarmusch has a bizarre but effective sense of comic timing. Starting with the little beat after Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) earnestly yells "hey Cliff" at Bill Murray, following up with "fuck you." There's little bits of echolalia and gags that get back up from the dead after being beaten into the ground. "Several wild animals." The way everyone refers to the gas station guy as a hobbit. This will end badly, but will it really though.

I think I might finally trust Adam Driver after this. He's got this doofus energy that has been fully put to use for the first time here. Not a stupid man by any stretch, but one who lives in some dimension that's mostly overlaid on ours but not quite. Officer Ronnie Peterson screeching up in his red convertible Smart Car is one of the more hilarious things I've seen in quite some time. He and Bill Murray together have a cool small-town Coen vibe, but it's got a little more energy in it since the characters are allowed to freak out a little, taking a break from tandem-straight man duty. Driver's really good at delivering nonsense in a deadpan manner, and Jarmusch takes full advantage. He'll pop off with the weirdest shit, and his delightfully weird unchanging beagle expression sells it completely. "She's part Mexican." Good work Mr. Driver.

I didn't much care for Tom Waits delivering the hobo wisdom straight at the audience in the final scenes, and the social commentary would have been irksome if anyone meant it. "Polar fracking" sounds like it could have come from a Wes Anderson film and perhaps it ought to have stayed there. Still. I don't mind brushing a few candy bar wrappers off the cushions before I sit down on a comfy sofa and just sit a spell with something like this.

Herb liked these reviews