Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” is a stylish zombie movie and a heist thriller, and a sentimental father-daughter reconciliation story. But more to the point, it’s a lot of fun and it’s set in Las Vegas. What’s not to like? Nothing—it’s good old-fashioned zombie fun!
Now to the cast: four gold stars and I tip my cap to the gifted cast and diverse actors playing fearless renegades. Plus it has a tremendous climax featuring a dropped nuclear bomb, and at two hours and 28 minutes it is packed-to-the-gills with thrills.
Snyder, who shot the film as well as co-writing and directing it, knows how to get the best out of his zombies.
It opens at dawn on a desert highway with a U.S. military caravan carrying mysterious cargo. Then a giddy, just-married couple slam into the caravan from the other direction, liberating the content which is a zombie—and not your ordinary, living-dead kind of zombie. This zombie is an alpha ghoul who can organize.
Snyder’s trademark is in full effect with his slow-motion music video opening-credits montages. It’s so much naughty fun watching the zombies at war. There are glitzy, hungry zombie girls tossing a sleaze into a bathtub and gun-toting mercenaries ripping the zombie to pieces, brains first, of course, because that’s the only way to kill a zombie.
“Army of the Dead” is about what happens after the war where the ravenous zombies are
confined to Vegas, with only a city wall of shipping containers between them and the rest of the terrified world.
Looking toward saving humanity, the president and Congress agree on legislation that mandates the dropping of a nuke onto the city in a desperate effort to eliminate the zombie threat. Then Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a seasoned hero of the war, now working as a cook, gets an offer from Mr. Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada), a casino magnate, who wants him to retrieve money from his vaults before the bomb is dropped. If successful they will be rescued by a helicopter, parked on the hotel roof, and fly off with $200 million.
Bautista is the perfect lead, a calm teddy bear who isn’t scared about the zombie danger. Scott is having issues with his daughter, Kate (Ella Purnell), because, maybe, it’s because he destroyed her zombified mother’s head. She joins Scott’s team, along with his ex, Cruz (Ana de la Reguera); Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), a tough man with a take-no-prisoners attitude; Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), a young German safecracker who’s never killed a zombie; Guzman (Raúl Castillo), who enjoys killing zombies for sport; and Marianne (Tig Notaro), a chopper pilot.
Under Snyder’s creative eye and quirky sense of the absurd, there is a one-eyed zombie tiger and a quarantine camp that makes you think about the 2021 COVID issue. The zombies are divided: the shamblers and the alphas, led by Zeus (Richard Centrone) and his Queen (Athena Perample).
Keeping the obstacles moving to ramp up the action, the helicopter is a hunk of junk and the bomb drop gets moved up by 24 hours, and Martin (Garret Dillahunt), the by-the-book soldier that Tanaka sends along to look after the operation, is one of the bad guys.
The film keeps the action going until the very end—with a surprise that never happens in horror movies. Someone unexpected survives. Two guesses—who?