'Army of the Dead' Feels Like Its Very Own 'Snyder Cut'

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Tig Notaro, Hiroyuki Sanada, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Garret Dillahunt

Photo: Clay Enos / Netflix

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jun 11, 2021

Las Vegas, to put it bluntly, sucks — so there's a certain vicious thrill in watching tacky casinos get trashed in Army of the Dead, the new zombie outbreak movie from action luminary Zack Snyder. It's a penis-free successor to Synder's 2004 film Dawn of the Dead, itself a remake of the 1978 film of the same name.

Dave Bautista stars as Scott Ward, a former mercenary now flipping burgers, who gets hired to break into a casino and steal the money from the vault. It's a classic heist premise — only this time, all of Vegas has been quarantined and the government is imminently dropping a nuke on the city to eradicate the zombies trapped inside.

Scott hires a team of experts to help him, including his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), cowardly safe-breaker Ludwig (Matthias Schweighöfer), and the wise-cracking helicopter pilot Marianne (Tig Notaro, who replaces Chris D'Elia and absolutely steals every scene she's in).

At nearly two and a half hours, Army of the Dead is almost twice as long as it needs to be and feels like a Snyder Cut in and of itself. But even if there's far too much dimly lit zombie massacring, the film's raw materials are solid: the vision of an apocalyptic Las Vegas evokes classic '90s disaster movies à la Independence Day, the heist elements are pure Ocean's Eleven, and the gore is just over-the-top enough.

The father-daughter drama between Scott and Kate never quite tugs at the heartstrings like it's trying to, but the film presents a compellingly nuanced portrait of its zombies (referred to here at "shamblers"). Snyder takes an I Am Legend-style approach to zombies, empathetically showing them as feeling love and having their own sense of community. They're not sympathetic, exactly, but they're more fully rounded than your average Hollywood brain-eater.

Army of the Dead already has two prequels in the works — and it's not spoiling much to say that it leaves the door open for a sequel as well. It's a promising start to the franchise, especially if Snyder can learn to tame his more self-indulgent impulses.

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