Army of the Dead is a horror film directed by Zack Snyder (yes, he of the DC Comics superhero movies), and it’s best described as a heist film that happens to have zombies.
The movie opens as a military convoy is transporting a mysterious package in the desert near Las Vegas. An accident with a distracted driver in an oncoming car causes the huge metal holding container to fly off the truck, and the door opens as it crashes to the ground.
Inside is a zombie, which not only kills everyone in the convoy, but makes its way to Vegas, where it kills and infects others, causing the whole city to become zombies.
Soldiers are sent in to try to contain the zombie horde, including Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera), and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick). When they fail, the city is quarantined and left to become a zombie wasteland.
After an undetermined time, Casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his associate Martin (Garret Dillahunt) approach Ward (who is no longer in the military) about a job to recover $200 million from Tanaka’s casino vault in Vegas before the military deploys a tactical nuclear strike on the city.
Ward agrees and recruits his former teammates Cruz and Vanderohe, along with helicopter pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro), German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer), and sharpshooters Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo) and Chambers (Samantha Win). Martin announces he’s coming along, too.
When they reach a quarantine camp in Barstow, CA, Ward asks his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) for help getting into Vegas. She points them to Lily (Nora Arnezeder), a smuggler familiar with the city, who also recruits Burt Cummings (Theo Rossi), a camp security guard.
Once in the city, the group realizes that the zombies are different. They have actually evolved into a hierarchy with a King and Queen ruling them. Something new within the zombie film genre, because it means they still retain not only their body control, but some mental faculties, as well.
The rest of the film centers on the team’s attempt to reach the vault, and as you can imagine, with such a large cast of characters, many don’t make it. Even to the end, the casualties will surprise you.
Army of the Dead is an exciting heist film, as the zombies definitely add an extra air of danger. The opening sequence featuring Vegas being attacked by zombies is a thrilling sequence, with lots of gory kills to satisfy horror fans.
But it also takes some liberty with zombie mythology, besides being them being able to organize a society with rulers.
For one thing, the queen is pregnant. Yes, Snyder has had a zombie baby once before (in 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake), but the mother was already pregnant when she was turned. For a zombie to become pregnant would insinuate that zombies mate, and that the zombie Queen’s uterus still functioned like a human’s.
Other inconsistencies: In one tense scene, the group crawls silently past a group of zombies that are in some state of dormancy, and only sounds will reactivate them. But later, it’s established that they react to the heat and smell of flesh…so why was the group able to crawl right next to the dormant zombies without them smelling them or feeling the heat of their bodies?
But if you are willing to forgive or overlook these zombie inconsistencies, Army of the Dead is an exciting and fun zombie movie, with lots of visual horror, and a great cast. It also sets up a sequel, which I hear is already in the planning stages.
I’m giving Army of the Dead a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s streaming on Netflix.
ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)
Director: Zack Synder
Cast: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Garret Dillahunt
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