Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.
After the fuss around ‘Justice League’, both the theatrical release and the so called ‘Snyder Cut’, Zack Snyder is back with an original movie that fuses the heist movie genre with a zombie movie. ‘Army of the Dead’, released on Netflix this weekend, has a terrific premise centering on a group of mercenaries who are hired to rob a casino vault in the heart of a Las Vegas that has been abandoned and closed off to the world on account of being overrun by zombies. The US government are preparing to nuke the entire city, adding a ticking clock element to the gang’s plans to get in, retrieve the money, and get back out again intact. I was totally sold on the premise, fusing two overdone genres into something that could be more than the sum of its parts through the combination.
First things first, this is a really enjoyable movie, but it does feel like somewhat of a letdown and that’s primarily at the door of Snyder who seems to be joining the ranks of directors who seem to have forgotten the art of editing. There’s a lean, mean sub two hour blockbuster hiding in ‘Army of the Dead’ but too many auxiliary characters and a bloated screenplay slow it down (the opposite of the zombies – yes we have fast zombies here and I really can’t get on board with fast zombies!). A large part of this comes from the attempts to build a wider mythology around the zombies which didn’t really work for me – I can understand the intention to make the antagonists more than just empty shells to stand in the way, but that’s generally the purpose of zombies. The mass is the threat, not their intelligence.
This may sound overly critical and I don’t mean it to be as I did think this was really entertaining and it would have been great to see it on a big cinema screen. The heist aspects are particularly great and Snyder has fun playing with conventions of the genre such as the ‘getting the team together’ sequence and the mechanics of the heist itself. It’s all anchored by a leading performance from Dave Bautista who is really coming into his own as an actor – who would have thought that prior to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? The rest of the supporting cast are a mostly enjoyable collection of performers but there are a bit too many and the interpersonal dynamics don’t always land as well as intended.
Overall, ‘Army of the Dead’ is a fun fusion of different genres with a great premise, but it only partially delivers on the promise of that premise and whilst I enjoyed it, I was left feeling that it could have been so much better with a bit more restraint on Snyder’s part.
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Starring: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arzeneder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi and Samantha Win