Director(s): Zack Snyder
Writer(s): Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold
Cast: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick
Synopsis: 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.
Zack Snyder has an extremely creative mind, sometimes too creative, and for that reason he is notoriously known for his “directors cuts” that allow him to fit his vision into whatever film he is creating. For most studios however, it seems like Snyder has had to suppress his film to fit whatever time window or story that a specific studio is trying to sell. His films are cut short, and usually the best parts get cut out of necessity in order to fit the film into the parameters given to him.
Then along comes Netflix, and if there is one thing Netflix has done better than any other studio as of late, it is grant its visionaries with the freedom and the budget to really do what they want when it comes to their films. For the first time in a long time, it seemed as though Zack Snyder was given the chance to be as creative and eccentric as he wanted to be. He even got the chance to be the cinematographer for the first time for any of his films. You could feel and appreciate that this is Snyder’s film, and you can sense a sort of excitement and new life into how the film was shot and put on screen.
Now, this does mean there will be some messy points. The script isn’t entirely developed, and the “heist tropes” do find their way into the film, including a sub-plot that you could see from a mile away. For a 2.5 hour long movie, the ending did feel a little rushed, especially when you compared it to how slow and exciting the opening was, and more than once did you feel like you knew where the film was going. The story felt really run-of-the-mill for the most part. Some of the sequences seemed entirely unrealistic, while others felt like they wrapped up far too neatly. But, there was a feeling of beauty within the mess that made this film the most enjoyable thing that Snyder has ever done.
That beauty is carried by Dave Bautista, and he is both the physical and emotional center of the film. You could argue that when it comes to wrestlers turned actors, Bautista is the one that takes the most risks out of any of them. In this film he not only had to be the brute “beat-em-up” type of character we have seen from his past work, but he was able to tap into a more emotional side that really helped give this film the heart it needed. His scenes with Ella Purnell, who plays his daughter in the film, were highly emotional and pulled off with the right amount of grace to keep you invested in the story. This movie didn’t need to have emotional weight to work, but this addition gives the audience something to hold onto throughout. Aside from Bautista, and Purnell the rest of the cast really did a fine job pulling their weight. They are as funny as they are badass and each character really gets their own moments to shine when it comes to the humor and action aspect of the film.
However, what you likely turned this movie on for was to see mindless zombie action, and Snyder definitely delivered in that aspect. The kills are ferocious and the fights are brutal, and for this being Snyder’s first work on the camera, he really was able to capture what you want to see in some of these action sequences. Any and every way you could think about killing a zombie, Snyder had to have thought of it first. The introduction of multiple breeds of zombies was a genius move to make sure that everyone was on their toes for anything that could come their way. The gore is all over the screen, literally on the camera at times, and there were definitely multiple “jump out of your seat” moments that should keep you entertained throughout.
Which that’s what this movies main purpose is, to entertain. It doesn’t have some deep meaning, it isn’t perfect, and it isn’t too game-changing in any way, but it’s fun. It was able to fit enough humor, gore, action, and emotion into its 2.5 hours to win me over in a way that Snyder has never done before.
Final: Zack Snyder shows what he can do when given full reigns, as Army of the Dead is as gory as it is fun. There is enough action and heart to make this 2.5 hour movie fly by, and Dave Bautista carries this film by being both the physical and emotional powerhouse of the movie. A complete blast, and a movie that Zack Snyder won’t need a director’s cut for.
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.