Zack Snyder returned to the zombie genre after his 2004 film Dawn of the Dead with a new movie arriving on Netflix after a limited theatrical run. Headlined by Dave Bautista, Army of the Dead took the zombie genre and infused it with some new ideas and added to the mythology of the living dead genre.
Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) was a medal-awarded former soldier who was involved in the walling off of Las Vegas after a horrible zombie outbreak destroyed the city. However, Scott lost his wife in the battle and became estranged with his daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) and he was working as a fry cook in a greasy diner.
Scott was approached by Japanese businessman Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) with an offer. Tanaka told Scott that there was a vault inside one of the casinos that contained $200 million dollars. Tanaka wanted Scott to put together a team and pull a heist in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
Offer a cut of $50 million, Scott could not turn Tanaka down and so he went about recruiting a team to pull off the heist with the knowledge that the government was preparing to drop a nuclear warhead on Las Vegas in 32 hours.
Dave Bautista continues his improvement as a performer. He is the glue that holds together this entire film and he never allows the craziness that is going around him to interfere with the heart of the movie, which was the relationship between Scott and Kate. The father-daughter dynamic between them keeps the movie grounded while some of the most ridiculous and silly things were happening around them. Bautista has shown continuous progress with ever project he takes. Whether or not the film is a good one, Bautista gives his best effort.
Where Zack Snyder’s venture into the world of DC brought a lot of dark and morose filmmaking, the tone of this film was part of the joy of Army of the Dead. This film was big and dumb and it knew it. It embraced it. There was humor, light-hearted moments intertwisted with some real tension. Snyder does not make it all serious, nor does he take it into the world of satire. He walks a line between the two worlds expertly.
The remaining cast was all good and got time to give us enough of their characters to make them worth rooting for. Tig Notaro as helicopter pilot Marianne Peters had some great moments trying to repair the escape helicopter. Omari Hardwick and Matthias Schweighöfer made a fun pairing as they tried to navigate the hotel and the eventual vault.
I liked a lot of the additional abilities that were given to the zombies, without totally dismissing the iconic natures of them. We saw the normal stumbling and hungry zombies, but we also saw what seemed to be a more evolved zombie that was led by Zeus (Richard Cetrone), the zombie king of the intelligent, more human zombies. Admittedly, there were moments in the film that make you roll your eyes because it is just too ridiculous, but you should expect that.
The film is too long and could have been wrapped up with 20-25 minutes cut, but Zack Snyder has been making long movies recently. I guess we should be happy that it was not 4 hours worth of movie (hello Justice League). It is an enjoyable film and one of my most favorite films from Zack Snyder’s oeuvre. Dave Bautista continues the elevation of his star and, I mean, there is a zombie tiger. What more could you want?