Action Army of the Dead

Review: ‘Army of the Dead’ is a Rag-Tag Mashup of ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’ ‘Suicide Squad’ and ‘I am Legend’

May 21, 2021Ben MK

Zack Snyder may be best known for bringing the Justice League to the big screen, but to fans of zombie movies, he's also the filmmaker responsible for reinventing one of the genre's seminal films — George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Now, 17 years after his first foray into undead territory, Snyder has returned for a blood-splattered second round. Only this time, he’s taking the action to Sin City, mixing in a shot of Ocean's Eleven and a dash of Suicide Squad.

In Army of the Dead, Snyder wastes no time setting the story in motion, using the movie's slick and stylish opening credits to unleash a plague of zombie mayhem that all begins with an explosive collision between a civilian vehicle and a military convoy hauling a dangerous payload, which leads to the escape of Zeus (Richard Cetrone), a zombie Alpha male who possesses superhuman strength and agility. Not long afterwards, we're introduced to Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a burly burger cook who once helped the US government wall off the gambling capital of the world, thereby preventing the hordes of the flesh-eating undead from infecting the rest of the country. Just when Scott thought he had left his old life behind, however, he's approached by Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), a billionaire casino owner who makes Scott an offer he can't refuse — help him retrieve $200 million from a highly secure vault located under the Las Vegas strip, and Scott and his team will get to keep $50 million for their trouble.

Eager to use the money as a means of reconciling with his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), who volunteers at a quarantine center just outside the Vegas walls, Scott proceeds to recruit a rag-tag ensemble that includes former special forces teammates Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) and Peters (Tig Notaro), as well as safecracker Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) and zombie thrillists Guzman (Raúl Castillo) and Chambers (Samantha Win). But with droves of smarter, faster and stronger zombies to contend with and a mere 96 hours until the President drops a nuclear bomb on the city, wiping out the zombies — and the money — once and for all, they won't just be battling against the odds, they'll be racing against the clock.

Throw in a fiercely territorial zombie tiger and a side mission to rescue a friend of Kate's who's gone missing inside the city — not to mention a scheme to use the zombies to create a new breed of super soldier — and you have the perfect recipe for wall-to-wall carnage. What makes Army of the Dead different from other entries in the genre, however, is that it's got that unmistakable Zack Snyder touch. And with a group of protagonists who look more like Aliens' Colonial Marines than The Walking Dead's downtrodden band of survivors, there's also no mistaking the fact that these characters are all about making their own luck, rather than playing by anyone else's rules.

Likewise, Army of the Dead also subverts the genre's tried-and-true norms, giving its antagonists a definitive leader in the form of Zeus, and even managing to solicit some empathy for him by way of his quest for, of all things, a family. Ultimately, it's nothing we haven't seen before in films like I am Legend and Land of the Dead. But with Snyder at the helm, moviegoers can at least rest assured that they're in for something spectacular — even if this league of heroes is noticeably rougher around the edges than their spandex-wearing counterparts.

Army of the Dead begins streaming May 21st, exclusively on Netflix. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong bloody violence, gore and language throughout, some sexual content and brief nudity/graphic nudity. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 28 min.

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