Writer/director Zack Synder puts away the capes and CGI mustaches to return to the genre that jump-started his career with his latest flick Army of the Dead which is in theaters and streaming on Netflix. The story centers on a former special force mercenary name, Scott Ward (Dave Batista) who’s approached by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) with a proposal to recover two hundred million dollars from his casino vault hours before the military plans to drop a nuke on the whole strip. The only problem is, the casino and the entire area surrounding it are filled with the undead. Army of the Dead is a decent comeback to horror for Synder but not without its flaws.
The film opens with a military convoy hauling a highly classified container across the desert near Las Vegas. At the same time, the film cuts back and forth between the military and a couple who just got hitched. As the newlyweds make their way down the same road the new bride decides to take a page out of the Stephen King movie Thinner and go downtown on her new hubby while he is driving. This in turn leads to the groom taking his eye off the road and conveniently crashing into the truck carrying the precious cargo. The soldiers then find out the hard way that the payload is a zombie and the ferocious flesh-eater makes short work of the men and begins his way into the city of lights.
Back in 2004, Zack Synder made his feature film debut with a reboot of the George A. Romero classic, Dawn of the Dead. So when I first saw the trailer for his latest Netflix film Army of the Dead, I thought it was nice to see him bring things full circle. While Army of the Dead isn’t a perfect flick it’s not bad either. Once the first car explosion happens the film kicks it into gear paying homage to movies before it like Zombieland with a similar opening.
One of the biggest problems I had with the film is that it’s not scary. Combine that with the fact that no real stakes are hanging in the balance and your audience has no connection to your characters. Most of the cast is comprised of a bunch of mercenaries with nothing to lose. So, ultimately does it matter who gets killed in the film?
On a good note, the film has plenty of humor, beautiful cinematography, and some decent action sequences. One of the funniest moments in the movie involves Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) using zombies as bait to set off booby traps in a vault room. It’s also noteworthy that for a horror film with a run time of two hours and twenty-eight minutes it holds your attention. A bunch of sequels are already starting to be announced so hopefully if it happens they pull it together a lot better than the first installment.
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