In the picture

June 13, 2021

Zack Snyder’s overlong, overstuffed zombie heist caper expects its viewers to turn off their brains as soon as they press play

Army of the Dead ☆☆

Staring: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, and Garret Dillahunt

Direction: Zack Snyder

Tagline: All bets are off.

A zombie outbreak has taken over a cordoned off Las Vegas. Just before the government nukes the city, a ragtag team of mercenaries enters the quarantine zone. Their mission: recovering millions of dollars from a casino vault while battling against the clock and a horde of undead.

That is the plot of Zack Snyder’s new film Army of the Dead. The premise sounds exciting. The film should be fun. Yet somehow it really isn’t.

The movie’s main character, widowed dad and standard tough-guy Scott Ward, is played by a very capable Dave Bautista. He is hired by a sketchy dude (Hiroyuki Sanada) to retrieve a fortune from a casino vault. The team he assembles includes two of his former teammates (Ana de La Reguera and Omari Hardwick); a safecracker (Matthias Schweighöfer); a sharpshooting YouTuber (Raùl Castillo) and his associate (Samantha Win); and a pilot (Tig Notaro, digitally replacing a #MeToo cancelled Chris D’Elia). Sketchy dude’s sketchy henchman also joins the team. Which is all super except none of them ever behave like how actual human beings would in the circumstances.

Then Ward’s estranged daughter (Ella Purnell) joins the action. You instantly know she’s going to further ruin the already-nonsensical movie, and she proves you right at every turn. To be fair though, she has a lot of help from Snyder who conceived, directed, co-wrote, produced, and cinematographed the project and is therefore very emphatically responsible for the entire mess.

Instead of a crisp action caper, Snyder lets the proceedings get bogged down with contrived drama and makes no effort to work with even cursory logic. Everything that could make the storyline convincing is missing from the tale.

Common sense? Absent. No one here seems very smart (or even vaguely familiar with things like padded sleeves or basic body armour). The eventual twist is mindbogglingly nonsensical and pretty much makes the entire plot unnecessary.

Sense of urgency? Nah. Doesn’t matter that we’re minutes away from being turned into radioactive dust; let’s just stand around and talk about our feelings.

Payoff from setups? Nope. Throw every random idea under the sun – robot zombie, aliens, rehydrated zombies, time loop – into the mix, never bring any of it up again, and just make the viewers wait for the prequels. Yes, there are going to be prequels. And an animated series. Here’s hoping they make more sense.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

In the picture