Zack Snyder returns to his zombie-film roots with Army of the Dead, a typically bloated and sometimes slow affair that nonetheless delivers the goods if you are a zombie-genre fan.
Just as the Snyder’s cut of Justice League didn’t need to be 742 days long, Army of the Dead didn’t need to clock in at nearly 2 1/2 hours. This film could lose 45 minutes—and be more watchable. Snyder really needs to say goodbye to unnecessary footage in his flicks. The struggle is real for Snyder when it comes to the editing room.
All right … it’s time to stop whining and talk about some of the good things in this movie. For starters, the Las Vegas setting is a lot of fun. It’s become a sort of prison for the walking dead as the U.S. has quarantined the city after a zombie outbreak. A mobster gets the bright idea to put a team of mercenaries together to have them enter Vegas with the intent of breaking into a vault to steal a whole bunch of money—before the city is nuked into oblivion by the government.
Leading the group is Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a former soldier reduced to frying burgers after his last mission. He needs the money; he has some zombie fighting experience; and he has some pals who can help get the job done, including badass Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) and snarky helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro).
The film plays out as a hybrid of Ocean’s Eleven and various zombie films you’ve seen before (running zombies, walking zombies, smart zombies, dumb zombies). The zombie carnage and gore are fairly well-done, and the special effects creating a devastated Vegas are OK. (Some of the CGI is sloppy.)
While Notaro provides some laughs, Bautista is asked to play it straight and serious—and that’s a mistake. The film could’ve used some more dark humor, and Bautista is certainly capable of getting laughs, as he has proved in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. His work here is a bit flat.
Army is not as good as Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, a great film that helped kickstart his career while paying homage to George Romero. He does add a couple of cool things to the genre here, including a zombie tiger (a former Siegfried and Roy employee) and a zombie queen.
Had Snyder let Bautista cut loose with some more humor, and had he engaged in a major editing session, Army of the Dead could’ve qualified as a very good zombie flick. As it stands, it’s passable mayhem that should’ve been better.
Army of the Dead is streaming on Netflix and playing at theaters across the valley.