Cert – 18, Run-time – 2 hours 27 minutes, Director – Zack Snyder
A group of specialists and survivors head into a zombie infested Las Vegas to retrieve $200 million from a casino vault before the city is blown up.
There are plenty of ideas in Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead that are undeniably cool. By now we’ve all likely seen some form of marketing involving the zombie tiger. There are a number of elements throughout the film that feel as if the screenwriters thought of what ideas would be cool and haven’t overly been seen before and tried to put them into the film. While some are pulled off better than others – there’s a reason the zombie tiger has been talked about so much – many feel at home in the hybrid plot of the film. Dawn Of The Dead meets Shaun Of The Dead meets Ocean’s Eleven as a group of specialists and survivors of a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas are recruited to go back into the infested city to get $200 million from a casino vault before the city is blown up the next day to prevent the further zombie spread.
We’re introduced to a handful of this gang in the early stages of the film – particularly watching them fight for survival in an extended slow-motion montage showing the initial spread of zombies throughout Las Vegas. Set to a slow rendition of Viva Las Vegas it’s the first of a number of lengthy ideas throughout the film. At almost two and a half hours this is a long film. Many scenes, particularly early on in the film, feel as if they build up to their point instead of getting to it, losing the attention of the viewer and adding to the feeling of the run-time. Things do pick up in the second half of the piece, particularly as the stakes raise and the heist truly comes into form.
Zombies enclose in, some of which are evolved, smarter, faster and stronger than the regular flesh-eaters. As the goal seems closer to being achieved the undead pose a stronger threat, added to by the looming bomb drop, and the attempts to create comic relief don’t appear to be as present anymore. This final point isn’t necessarily a bad thing, most attempts come through German safecracker Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) and don’t have the best success rate at properly landing. It allows for less stalling and pausing as bigger action moments begin to emerge. While not all of the early chases and attacks gain an effective response from the viewer Snyder certainly pans out an engaging casino shootout, demonstrating well his advanced zombies and the mutations that make them an even stronger force to face. Although nothing quite seems to be as much of a challenge for any of the, sometimes busy, ensemble cast than a mattress poses for Dave Bautista – very much the leader of the pack, the character whose eyes we see most of the film’s events through.
While we have Bautista as the figure with whom we spend the most time we get little time to form a connection with anyone else. Leading to a lack of tension in certain high-stakes scenes when close action with the undead is involved. Boosted by the fact that a lot of the time the decision has been made for the majority of the screen to be out of focus. Often only one character or detail is in focus, likely to draw attention to just this and allow for the detail to be further recognised. However, instead it’s the largely out of focus areas that draw attention and somehow to prove an oddly distracting visual choice – particularly in the exterior scenes. The overall distanced connection causes some of the more emotional and personal beats of the film to fall flat, and therefore adds to the feeling of the run-time in the scenes between the core heist and action set-pieces. Moments which stand out as well-executed big budget B-movie style pieces of entertainment in an otherwise uneven mixture of less direct, lengthy scenes.
While it has a number of good ideas, and certainly some engaging action and heist sequences, Army Of The Dead is overall too long and busy to be an overall satisfying watch, even one where you can properly turn off to embrace it.