When I see the word ‘heist’ in a film’s description, my natural instinct is not to watch it. It reminds me of Ocean’s Eleven and Snatch, movies that I have very little interest in watching. Mix that word with zombies, however, and you stand a chance of turning my head.
Zack Snyder’s latest offering, a prequel of sorts to his Dawn of The Dead remake, was released on Netflix last month. It has more than a whiff of the Ocean’s Eleven about it, including a handpicked squad of mercenaries working for a shadowy crime boss, all out for themselves and prone to stabbing each other in the back. Despite this ominous premise, encouraged by the impressive visuals and the promise of some zombie ass-kickery in 4k, I pressed play.
Army of The Dead is set amid the ruins of an alternative Las Vegas which has been ravaged by a zombie apocalypse and placed into quarantine. Themes of viral contagion and lockdowns run throughout the film, but that’s hardly surprising. What else has there been to talk about for the last eighteen months?
This film’s visuals are a good few notches above its storyline, which suffers from being just too predictable, particularly the ending, which I won’t spoil.
David Bautista (Blade Runner 2049) plays Scott Ward, leader of the squad. He is joined by a ragtag group of chancers and past allies as they attempt to break into an underground vault beneath the ruins and snatch several million dollars before the city is nuked to contain the virus. He is reluctantly joined by his daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell), who insists on tagging along to save a mother and child from the doomed ruins. The father/daughter dynamic gives Bautista’s character some much-needed emotional depth and gives him the chance to be more than just an on-screen strongman.
One thing that did annoy me was the soundtrack. There are one too many sickly-sweet cover versions of Las Vegas staples, including Viva Las Vegas and several others. It works in the intro – a set piece that serves as exposition, and shoots itself in the foot somewhat, as it’s so much more fun than the rest of the film. It’s just overdone and feels like there’s another cheesy cover song every few minutes or so. It could have been cut out if a bit more thought had been put into it. Why not licence the original songs for the remaining tracks? Netflix can afford it.
A standout character for me was Lilly The Coyote, played by Nora Arnezeder (Maniac, Mozart in The Jungle). She is a tough, kick-ass mercenary who takes no shit from either the zombies or any men dumb enough to try their luck with her. I was not aware that she was in Maniac as it’s a long time since I watched it (once is enough!), but I will look out for her in the future. Hopefully she will gain notoriety after this and get more prominent roles. Bonus points for The Exploited t-shirt, too!
Army of The Dead is an enjoyable, if predictable rollercoaster ride with great visuals and effects and a decent cast. It’s an HD version of the kind of movie we would have rented on VHS back in the 1990’s (or wished we could – there was nothing this good-looking back then!).
You can watch it on Netflix now.