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Cinematic Releases: Army of the Dead (2021) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1074 days ago on Entertainment -  The first time I heard about the idea of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead being remade in 2004 I was predisposed against it.  Why fix what isn’t broken or take away from what was accomplished in the past?  Then upon seeing the film I was introduced to what is now regarded as the directorial debut of one of Hollywood’s biggest and most divisive original filmmakers: Zack Snyder.  In the years since, Snyder’s adaptation of 300 as well as his adaptation of Watchmen before going on to take on the DCEU with Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice saw Snyder swinging hard in the big leagues brushing shoulders with the likes of Christopher Nolan. Then tragedy struck when his daughter took her own life and he pulled out of the third DCEU film Justice League before Joss Whedon took over, resulting in one of the most divisive cinematic train wrecks the comic book superhero film world has ever known.  After the tumultuous ordeal suffered by Snyder and his family, the prospect of completing his original vision of Justice League seemed unlikely until it was more or less willed into existence by popular demand and soon Snyder was back in the director’s chair.  Returning to Justice League for Snyder however wasn’t so much a dose of long-awaited fan service as it was a personal catharsis for the writer-director in losing a loved one near and dear to him. Right around the same time, Snyder’s creative output kicked back into high gear and right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit he shot what can be regarded as a return to the world that cemented his place in Hollywood in the first place with the $90 million Army of the Dead.  Airing in select theaters this week before going onto Netflix next Friday, the film picks up years later with a new ensemble set of characters living in a post-apocalyptic world where some semblance of normalcy has returned in some areas while others remain in zombie outbreak ruin.  Starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro and Hiroyuki Sanada, the film concerns a group of mercenary soldiers who conspire a heist of a Las Vegas casino.  The trouble is the area has been quarantined with a horde of newly evolved tribalistic zombies fashioning their own army of the undead to battle humankind.  Think of it as a crossbreed between Ocean’s Eleven, George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead with just a hint of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes thrown in before turning into a battle with the undead that will remind more than a few viewers of James Cameron’s Aliens. Much like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, Army of the Dead is notable for being the first film in Snyder’s oeuvre to be filmed by himself acting as his own director of photography.  Though Snyder does pay tribute to Larry Fong in certain scenes, this new development is an exciting one and proves Snyder’s not only an adept and wholly original visual stylist but he can take on the task himself now.  The film also reunites Snyder with his new favorite composer Thomas Holkenborg aka Junkie XL who provides an exciting and energizing electronic score that goes off like a bomb amid the mayhem of explosions and zombie blood and guts flying around the screen.   Effects wise the gore isn’t quite as striking as what was seen in his 2004 Dawn of the Dead and visually the film isn’t as polished but Army of the Dead has more than a few tricks up its sleeves even the most dedicated zombie horror fans won’t see coming.  Performances are, in an ensemble piece like this, mostly okay though the real revelation here is Dave Bautista who is tasked with more than a few emotional scenes that share the blood, sweat and tears shed by Mickey Rourke’s fantastic turn in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.  Bautista has been an action movie star for some time now since the Guardians of the Galaxy films but here is allowed to create his most fully fledged character and performance yet. While some areas of the film’s running time could have been tightened, Army of the Dead was kind of a blast both as a Snyder film and as a zombie film.  Though the genre has been beaten to death (no pun intended), Army of the Dead injected some new life into it and offered ideas as well as vistas not seen in previous zombie films let alone Snyder’s own remake of Dawn of the Dead.  Snyder might remain divisive to some filmgoers but there’s no denying the man’s talent with the camera and clear passion for making movies whose recent director’s cut of Justice League and Army of the Dead might well be the filmmaker’s most personal cinematic expressions to date.  While Army of the Dead still isn’t quite on par with the havoc wrought by his remake of Dawn of the Dead, this was a solid action/horror flick with heart and humor and was inarguably the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year since Nobody.  --Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? 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