Army of the Dead, directed by the great and powerful Zack Snyder, is a Netflix produced zombie film set in modern day Las Vegas. An outbreak has broken out in the city, flooding the streets violent zombies looking to consume and infect all the remaining humans they can find. The city has been cordoned off from the rest of civilization, and plans are underway to eliminate all traces of the zombies through any means necessary. Scott Ward (played by Dave Bautista), plays a mercenary who is incentivized to lead a team of other mercenaries into the city to retrieve a massive stockpile of cash; 200 MILLION dollars!
Army of the Dead draws on some great movies as inspiration. Zombieland through its light-hearted tone, Dawn of the Dead / World War Z via the overall look and mechanics of the zombies, and Suicide Squad (not a great movie imo) from the misfit of characters and their chemistries with each other in Bautista’s mercenary squad. I also got major Infernal Affairs vibes from this film, especially since a large chunk of its runtime is set entirely in a Las Vegas hotel ridden with zombies. This contained setting added a layer of claustrophobia to the film; characters being surrounded and outnumbered by zombies at every turn, and often being stuck in enclosed spaces to fend off such zombies.
The zombies themselves were incredibly well designed. The makeup and CGI were both on point. Snyder also capitalizes on an opportunity that most other directors of zombie movies miss out on; animals. Army of the Dead introduces “zombified” versions of tigers & horses, which elevated the overall level of entertainment. Snyder also gave some depth to the zombies; they weren’t only characterized as an identical swarm of undead, disgusting beings. Instead, they had a leader. They were structured, hierarchal, and somewhat principled.
The action in Army of the Dead does not disappoint. The movie earned its R-rating; it was extremely violent and gory, yet oddly creative in the plethora of different ways it depicts zombies being killed. In terms of its characters, the film introduces many new faces that I have never seen on the big-screen before. Most of the characters didn’t really have any depth or layers to them; they were all made to look like badasses. In all fairness though, I don’t expect (or want) much sort of character development in these types of movies; all I’m looking for is wild action, which this film delivered in spades.
Despite my praise for the Army of the Dead, it does have its setbacks. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that most of the characters were one-dimensional, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing for such films. However, there were attempts made to flesh out Dave Bautista’s and Ella Purnell’s characters, who play a father and daughter duo, respectively. Essentially, the ark of Bautista’s character is that he wants to mend his relationship with his daughter. Every attempt the film made to explore this relationship felt cringeworthy and out of place. Ella Purnell’s character also made some really stupid decisions; she was more of a liability than an asset, which made me question why she was even included in the team. I did not like her character at all. The last fifteen minutes of the runtime were also a completely s***show. I mean in this in the most negative way possible. Several things happen during these fifteen minutes that made absolutely no sense; all logic was thrown out of the window.
In summary, if you are looking for an entertaining mess of action, blood and zombies, then Army of the Dead may be the film for you. It takes inspiration from many classic zombie movies to deliver a generally entertaining and watchable product. The highs of this movie are high (the design of the zombies, action, and claustrophobic settings), but the lows of this film are low (character arks and the final fifteen minutes.