Plot In A Nutshell: After a Zombie outbreak turns the entire population of Las Vegas into the undead, the city is walled off and becomes a quarantine zone. Seeing a heaven-sent money-making opportunity, a shady billionaire (Hiroyuki Sanada) recruits a team of mercenaries’ and assorted ne’er do wells led by Dave Bautista’s hard as nails ex-soldier, to break into Las Vegas and steal $200 million in cash from the vault of one of the city’s largest casinos.
The only problems? Avoid the undead, steal the cash and get out before the US government drops a tactical nuclear weapon that will obliterate Las Vegas is 36 hours’ time.
Its 100% entertaining, utterly insane, zips along at a rare old pace, and is a proper treat for dyed in the wool film geeks.
Kudos must go to director Zack Snyder who directs with his usual flair and creativity – taking inspiration from the likes of Aliens, Escape From New York, The Dirty Dozen, and just about every zombie movie ever made, this occasionally and very unfairly much maligned director seems to be in his element here and clearly is having a ball.
Unrestricted by the studio-imposed shackles that hampered him so badly on Batman V Superman and Justice League, and given acres of creative freedom by Netflix, he leaves just about nothing off the table in this film. Indeed, over the course of two and a half hours Snyder lets loose with some madcap action scenes, screaming hordes of zombies, beheadings, impaling’s, explosions, helicopters, massive gunfights and even an undead tiger.
In addition to Snyder’s excellent direction, the plot is also well put together and gives an actual reason for the zombie outbreak (hints of a government alien experiment gone wrong), the gore and make up effects are as good as we have seen in Fox’s The Walking Dead series and the whole thing hints at a wider expanded universe that will be interesting to explore in the planned sequels and animated spin offs.
What could have been better?
Despite the exciting action scenes and blood drenched fun on show here, unfortunately there are a few issues with Army Of The Dead.
To begin with, most of the main characters are very under developed meaning that with the notable exception of Omari Hardwick’s chainsaw wielding soldier and Matthias Schweighöfer’s nutcase safe cracker, we really don’t get to know any of them or care who gets bumped off as the film progresses.
The casting of Dave Bautista in the lead was also a bit of a mistake – to be fair, with every film he is in, he is actually becoming quite a good actor however all the promise he showed as Drax The Destroyer in Guardians Of The Galaxy is nowhere to be seen here, Bautista’s character sometimes annoyingly speaks in barely audible tones and is way too sad and emotional for a what is supposed to be a badass mercenary. Indeed, this is a character that should have been played by the likes of Dwayne Johnson or John Cena – both better actors, very good in the action stakes and who have anchored far more blockbuster films than Bautista.
There is also an occasional issue with pacing – despite the film mostly racing along, it does have a frustrating tendency to slow down when it should be hitting first gear. Finally, and most bizarrely, right in the middle of the film there is a weird plot twist that sticks out like sore thumb, which hints at a throwaway time travel story strand and just seems to have been chucked in for the hell of it and is never mentioned again – perhaps this will be expanded on in the sequel but for me it was totally unnecessary.
It does have its problems, the leading man is miscast, most of the characters are too thin plus there are pacing issues and odd plot strands that frustrate, but overall Army Of The Dead is a very well-directed, madcap slice of blood drenched, bullet riddled entertainment, with clever nods to classic films of the past, cracking zombie action and enough gore to satiate even the most discerning of horror fans.
Recommended and available to stream on Netflix now