Though recent months have made Zack Snyder into something like a Che Guevara-esque figure for aggrieved nerds with a loose understanding of what an assembly cut is, the guy’s still a maverick genre filmmaker at heart. His latest feature sees him moving away from the micromanaged franchise work on which he’s spent the last half-decade, and back to his origins as the director of the Dawn of the Dead remake.
He returns to his zombie roots for Army of the Dead, an original-concept action picture cross-pollinating its horror subgenre with the immediate pleasures of the heist movie. Though that’s just a stuffier way of saying the phrase that surely got this pitch sold in the meeting: casino robbery mid-zombie invasion.
Dave Bautista leads a crack squad including Tig Notaro (replacing Chris D’Elia in light of the sexual misconduct allegations filed against the actor), Omari Hardwick, Ella Purnell, and German import Matthias Schweighöfer on what might just be a suicide mission with sky-high stakes.
Their benefactor (Hiroyuki Sanada) sends them to Las Vegas to loot a massive subterranean vault beneath the Strip housing hundreds of millions, a mission complicated by the hordes upon hordes of flesh-starved ghouls sauntering around the perimeter wall.
Of course they break in and swarm upon Bautista and Co., who must rely on their extensive skill with firearms and close combat if they want to survive. The clips of our desperate heroes leapfrogging across the tops of slot machines should be enough to sell skeptics on the film as a solid cotton-candy diversion (with a side of viscera).
Mostly, it’s a relief to see someone who truly knows what he’s doing choreographing large-scale action set-pieces, a talent that goes under-appreciated in these days of pre-viz computerization. Say what you will about Zack Snyder, and there’s so much to say, but he’s out there keeping the flame of dumb-in-a-good-way ’90s action B-movies burning.
Army of the Dead comes to Netflix on 21 May.
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