Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Samantha Win, Huma Qureshi, Samantha Win, Richard Cetrone
Written by: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold, based on a story by Zack Snyder
Directed by: Zack Snyder
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, gore and language throughout, some sexual content and brief nudity/graphic nudity
Running Time: 150
Date: 05/14/2021

Army of the Dead (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Zombie Strip

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Zack Snyder's zombie heist movie is hardly original, and filled with cliches, and yet, because of its cast and its hardy sense of humor, it marginally succeeds as an action/horror roller coaster ride.

A military transport is unexpectedly upsest, unleashing a zombie outbreak. Some time later, the zombies are contained in Las Vegas, and the government plans a nuclear strike to stop them. Meanwhile, businessman Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) hires Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to infiltrate a Las Vegas casino and procure a forgotten $200 million in cash, hours before a nuclear strike threatens to wipe out the entire area.

Scott assembles a crack team for the job, but zombies and other threats make things more difficult than planned. And, even more challenging, Scott's daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) insists on coming along to find a missing woman, lost in the zombie zone. Can Scott and his team make it out alive, let alone with the millions they were promised?

Like many of Snyder's movies, Army of the Dead is far too long and far from flawless, the zombies aren't at all scary or interesting, and there's some questionable imagery. But though the movie employs the director's usual drab color palette, it does sometimes unexpectedly brighten things up once the team arrives in Vegas. And the camera movements and cutting can be jerky and disorienting, but other sequences work quite well. And, in a shift from some of his earlier movies, Snyder even attempts to give his women characters a little power and a real voice, even creating an openly mysoginistic antagonist.

On the plus side, the movie gives us a big batch of lovable and diverse characters — led by the always-charismatic Bautista — and, in a switch from his grim, humorless superhero movies, a rollicking sense of humor (much of it supplied by Tig Notaro as a helicopter pilot). And, in the end, the movie reveals a good heart, valuing family over the stolen millions.

While Synder still can't resist including his name at least a half-dozen times during the extra-gory, show-offy opening credits sequence, Army of the Dead ultimately doesn't take itself too seriously, and seems to know that it's just here for dumb fun.

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