‘Army of the Dead’ Fails Despite Bautista’s Compelling Performance
Directed by Zack Snyder, Army of the Dead is streaming on Netflix.
‘Army of The Dead’ Fails Despite Bautista’s Compelling Performance
Zack Snyder is back with the zombies! After an impressive debut with Dawn of the Dead(2004) his latest, Army of the Dead, has him not just helming the project as a director but also being a part of it as a co-producer, co-writer and cinematographer. And the fun he seems to be having is evident in the way he lets his imagination run wild. The best possible opening credit sequence, choreographed to 'Viva Las Vegas', sets the tone of the movie. And the magic of the epilogue song hits the right notes in a way only Snyder could have executed.
As we enter a military ‘quarantine’ centre and hear about ‘temperature and infection’, it’s tough not to be reminded of the pandemic-inflicted world we are living in and the dread slowly sets in.
Vegas has been walled up, we are told. We meet Dave Bautista, who plays Scott Ward. Now flipping burgers, he has an impressive record of fending off the visceral zombie attack in the past, which earned him the Medal of Freedom. Ward is recruited to go back to Las Vegas and recover 200 million dollars from a vault underneath a casino. The only challenge - zombies are left inside to haunt the abandoned city and the government plans to nuke the area, so they have limited time and a lot of flesh-eating monsters to deal with.
Nearly two-and-a-half hours long, Snyder chooses to be rather indulgent with the pace of Army of the Dead. It works best in the first half, as the context is set, the team put together and we get to spend time with the characters and see them adjusting to each other. Most of the jokes land, the humour is on point, as is the emotional play-off, particularly in the scenes between Scott and his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell).
Bautista drives the plot with Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighofer and Raul Castillo. Despite having stock characters typical of the genre, it's nevertheless impressive to watch them navigate the dangers. It's great fun seeing Schweighofer play the safecracker with little firsthand experience of fending off a zombie attack, and the acerbic-tongued Tig Notaro as Marianne Peters. It’s fascinating to know how Notaro, who replaced Chris D’Elia (because of sexual misconduct allegations), actually shot for the movie. By the time Tig came on board the shooting was over. So she was put in front of a green screen, and apart from Zack behind the camera she never shot with any of the other cast members. But for the average viewer oblivious to the details, her personality on screen is smooth and convincing. As for us desis the inclusion of Huma Qureshi feels more like a hyped cameo with just a couple of scenes and an abrupt end to her graph. She is good but hardly present.
The gore, blood spouting zombies and special effects all are handled expertly. The problem arises once the premise is set.
The heist element added to this zombie genre gives it a certain uniqueness, but the narrative loses steam soon enough as it fails to capitalise on the novelty and falls back on the routine trajectory. Collective attack by the monsters, the saboteur on board, the jumpscares, gut-wrenching gore - everything is introduced in a predictable fashion. Even though we are told that amongst the 'regular' bloodthirsty zombies there is now a superior Alpha zombie variety that's smarter and quicker (not to forget the zombie tiger roaming around), but the rather clumsily put-together denouement seems to forget all about them.
Even though Army of the Dead sadly feels like the tons of zombie movies we have already seen, it still isn't something one wouldn’t want to outright dismiss. Particularly because Dave Bautista’s command over his character never slips. His performance isn’t just a physical one where, as the big guy, he struts around looking like he means business, but is strikingly powerful as his character acquires deeper levels of empathy .
If only Snyder had managed to keep the momentum going till the end Army of the Dead would have been a rousing success .
Army of the Dead is streaming on Netflix
Our rating: 2.5 Quints out of 5!
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