Zack Snyder is back and after the triumphant success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the blockbuster director has made his Netflix debut with big-budget zombie action thrill ride Army of the Dead and this makes for a very fun watch.
After a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble by venturing into the quarantine zone for the greatest heist ever.
Returning to the playground of zombie horror which first started his career with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead, long-time blockbuster filmmaker Zack Snyder makes the shift to Netflix with Army of the Dead, a quasi-sequel of sorts to his original work on Dawn of the Dead which re-imagines a new zombie outbreak in Las Vegas and mixes in a high-octane, larger than life casino robbery with a group of very out-there and electric characters. Snyder is once again on point with this new adaptation in Army of the Dead and he seriously blows things up thanks to a mixture of hard-hitting action, intense character development and freakishly inventive zombie horror gore.
While we all think we understand and know what a zombie horror movie is, Snyder throws that out the window this time with Army of the Dead. Yes, there are zombies, and yes there is gore, but he really shifts things up with his creativity and imagines a brand new zombie world after the fall of Las Vegas. While we have the dead and ghoulish ‘scramblers’ in Army of the Dead, we also have a new species of zombie, The Alpha, a set of creatures who show extreme strength, speed and intelligence and who are this hyper-primordial new species of fearsome monster. These ‘Alpha’ zombies are legitimately terrifying and Snyder’s use of them throws the action of his movie in a brand new direction, and it’s a solid addition to a genre where we thought we had seen everything. And yes there is a ZOMBIE TIGER!
Army of the Dead is first and foremost a ‘men on a mission’ type of movie, and Snyder assembles a large ensemble cast to break into Las Vegas for the ultimate heist job. Leading the pack is Hollywood heavy-hitter, Dave Bautista, as Scott Ward, a former Special Forces soldier turned mercenary who faced the initial zombie outbreak head-on and who has been left broken by it. Finding a last-ditch effort for redemption he jumps at the chance to enter Vegas, to not only provide for himself and his team with a massive score but also to re-connect with his long lost daughter Kate (Ella Purnell).
While Bautista has long proven that he could handle heavy artillery and high action sequences, it’s the emotional connection of a father trying to protect and reconnect with his daughter where he really shines in here. Bautista brings considerable depth and emotional weight to his performance as Scott, and it’s a side of him that we are beginning to see more and more of and he’s proving that he has a real talent for performance. Bautista’s team-up with Snyder produces a great working relationship that leads to a great performance on Bautista’s behalf. Whether he’s kicking zombie ass or leading an emotional scene, Bautista gives it his all and the film’s penultimate moments between Scott and Kate are sure to leave you on the verge of tears. It’s a great turn for Bautista and I hope like hell we see him working with Snyder down the road again.
Joining Bautista in Army of the Dead as his rag-tag merc crew are Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Nora Arnezeder, Tig Notaro and Matthias Schweighöfer. Each of them is a stand-out in their own way, and each of them gets to put their own mark on Army of the Dead. As Vanderohe, Omari Hardwick brings a considerable philosophical stoicism that counterbalances his alpha-male standing, while Ana de la Reguera has a can-do attitude as soldier-mechanic Maria who jumps head-first into the chance to rob Vegas. Nora Arnezeder is the tough-as-nails and scrappy coyote Lily, who helps Scott and his team breach Vegas and she’s a definite dangerous woman. Then there’s Tig Notaro whose pithy comments and smirky attitude as helicopter pilot Peters lead to plenty of off-kilter humour. But the scene-stealer is definitely Schweighöfer as German safecracker Ludwig Dieter who has a blast as this high-strung character and he injects so much fun into the movie.
Army of the Dead is a film that really goes its own way and it’s not the movie that you expect. Its action, drama, humour and zombies really defy the conventional genre setting and that results in a very fun watch. All throughout Snyder zigs and zags with this story and the kill count rises quickly, with plenty of gore thrown in for good measure and audiences seeking action-zombie-horror fun at the height of its insanity, which is amplified even more thanks to the film’s Las Vegas setting, will be well-impressed by the results. Snyder and his cast clearly had a blast working on this project and it absolutely shows on screen in all its blood and guts, hellfire zombie-mania glory.
If you’re seeking some late-night fun and are looking for a double dose of action and horror goodness then Army of the Dead is a film you seriously need to check out….because this one is crazy!