First mooted in 2007 and languishing in development hell until Netflix recently acquired it is Army of the Dead, a bonkers, zombie-cum-heist film directed by Zack Snyder and the spiritual successor to his 2004 directorial debut Dawn of the Dead. As such it comes with all the flair, gore, spectacle and subtlety expected from the man behind 300, and a suitably big run time of 2 and a half hours.
The army is carrying a dangerous and top secret cargo under heavy guard. Lo and behold the convoy has an accident and the cargo, a zombie as it turns out, escapes and unleashes havoc on the nearest place. Cue entertaining carnage in Las Vegas, with the town descending into mayhem and chaos, including a zombie Elvis Presley getting squashed by the Vegas eiffel tower. This cacophony of blood and explosions happens to the tune of a wonderful, big band version of ‘Viva Las Vegas’ – top marks go to the man behind the music Tom Holkenborg.
After this we get to the meat of the plot; rich casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) hires ex soldier Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) to assemble a team to retrieve $200m locked away in a safe smack bang in the middle of zombie country. In and out, easy peasy! The way this pans out, the ‘twists’, the backstabbers and the ending is tired and predictable, thankfully the colourful spectacle distracts you slightly. There is some interesting Planet of the Apes like humanisation of the zombies, unfortunately this is mostly drowned out by the noise and fury.
We have the leader Scott Ward, engaging action star Dave Bautista, with an estranged daughter and a job flipping burgers. Kate (Ella Purnell) is said estranged daughter, with a frosty relationship with her dad and a job volunteering at a quarantine camp. The street tough local guide with insider knowledge Lily (Nora Arnezeder) and the cigar chomping helicopter pilot Marianne (Tiga Notaro). The German safecracker Dieter, as played by Matthias Schweighöfer, is the comic relief – his expertise is counteracted by his fear and inability to fight. Dieter’s relationship with the handy in a fight soldier Vanderhoe, Omari Hardwick, is genuinely funny. Amongst many, many more – the team is made up of walking clichés.
A splatter filled spectacle with a great start and some funny moments, all of which gets lost under the long run time and boring predictability of the characters and story. There is still fun to be had but it is strictly of the throwaway variety.