Army of the Dead

Army of the Dead ★★★½

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas you blood thirsty cannibals! In this version of the crazy world we live in you need the baddest bunch of hombres this side of the zombie apocalypse to rescue gazillions of good ole fashioned greenbacks. Former military men, with specialized training, turned zombies have become the alpha horde offering only the criminally insane and highly talented brain bashers a chance at financial freedom. Sleepwalkers, nightmare makers and a zombie tiger named Valentine guard the loot. Courtesy of Las Vegas’s own entertainment landmarks Zigfreid and Roy.

Let’s be serious for a second. Army of the Dead is a comic book for those of us who are too lazy to read. It’s an original property with not so original characters doing not so original things. Trying to pull off the impossible heist before riding off into the sunset where even the biggest problems in life can’t find them. Lots of high caliber weapons that make big holes. And each operator speaks firmly with a generous trigger finger or blade. Sure, there’s a plot. And people are motivated for one reason or another to right a wrong from the past. Maybe, grow up a little. There’s even whispers of the evil influences of capitalism and how our world is going to hell in a hand basket because of greedy power hungry politician’s, yada, yada, yada. But don’t kid yourself, this is just a comic book for adults plain and simple.

And who better than Zack Snyder to make all that glorious carnage a reality. To give us a rag tag bunch of wack jobs we can vicariously run for our lives through. That’s what the guy does. Every film he’s ever made is basically a comic book. Or looks and acts like one. Let’s not get into the Justice League debacle. (Whedon abuses, Warner Ex’s with creative sticky fingers and family tragedy aside the guy still managed to come out of the thing with his nose above the water line).

The images are always meant to give the best bang for the buck. Slow motion for dummy’s rotting your brain. Never mistaking the highlight in the frame, smash focused with a paper thin depth of field. Rarely if ever are we meant to dig deep into the emotional trauma’s and connections any of these people have. Just cheap sugar high’s freight training your eyeballs. Each setting up the next chain of events where bigger is better and those with squeamish tummy’s need not apply. Comic relief is sprinkled about. Stand up comedian Tig Notaro is your every day whirlybird operator for hire. With suicidal skills she calmly loosens the tension valve while talking through the back end of a hefty stick of cuban tobacco. Her character is grossly underdeveloped, but when does an ensemble like this ever truly have room to breathe deep. Ella Purnell is dramatic with hardened princess in need vibes, hinting at heroic. It’s also a wasted part but she’s got moxie and Im down with that. This is Zack Snyder’s world, Im just his guest. Aside from the big guy, Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) was the unpolished muscle in the room. Every word out of his mouth had knuckles across your cheek bones. A deceptively quiet sense of confidence, but always in beat down monster mode. The supporting cast each have moments in the spotlight. Some longer than others. But it’s Bautista’s Mount Everest of charm and brawn we are ultimately drawn to. A moth to the flames.

The game play has a strong Escape from New York/28 Days Later groove going on. Sandpaper to your nerves are Snyder’s musical counter weights. Kenny Rogers the Gambler played over the trailer. Too bad it didn’t have a home in the film. But all his choices are there to remind us none of it is to be taken seriously. This is a rollercoaster for the macabre minded fools for justice and liberty. And no one comes out the other side unscathed. There are problems with what appears to be unfinished CGI in places. And the camera’s nearly constant shallow depth of field can easily take the viewer away from the world he’s worked so hard to establish. Can't ignore the slightly bloated runtime either. Probably be complaining about the lack of character depth even more if all the fat had been trimmed though. There’s nothing substantial to any of it. And the minor missteps mentioned above keep it from ever being a masterpiece. Or even an outright zombie genre classic. But a lot of the fun things we do in life only require a willingness to engage the ringleader and go with the flow. If you can do that you should be alright.

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