Army of the Dead is a 2021 zombie heist film starring Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera and Tig Notaro. Army of the Dead is directed by Zack Snyder is exclusively available to stream on Netflix.
Army of the Dead follows a group of mercenaries who venture into a zombie infested Las Vegas, whilst attempting to pull off one of the greatest heists of all time. Zombie movies are becoming increasingly popular and it seems as though there’s a new zombie film coming out every other week! Whilst we do see a number of similar features and mechanics across most zombie themed movies, Army of the Dead certainly has enough uniqueness about it to make it stand out from the pack.
Firstly, the Las Vegas setting of Army of the Dead is truly what makes this film so engrossing! We’ve seen the countless times zombies, natural disasters and a whole host of extra-terrestrials have terrorised the streets of New York, but it’s refreshing to see the Las Vegas setting. From the numerous casinos to the zombies dressed in typical Vegas outfits (think zombified Elvis’s), the Las Vegas setting makes the Army of the Dead that little bit more entertaining.
Likewise, some of the zombies in the film are truly terrifying! We’ve seen the standard slow-moving zombies’ countless times before, but Army of the Dead includes an elite, more intelligent group of zombies known as Alphas. These zombies are eerily frightening and I enjoyed the concept of a group of zombies which have a bit more too them than the standard brain-dead zombies we’ve seen before. Army of the Dead also features a number of zombified animals including a horse and a zombified tiger! Like the Alphas, the tiger is again a nice variant on standard zombies.
Army of the Dead features an ensemble cast consisting of Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera and Matthias Schweighöfer to name but a few. The cast and their characters all work really well together and all offer something different to one another. Two of my favourite characters are the mercenary Vanderohe (played by Omari Hardwick) and the safecracker, Ludwig Dieter (played by Matthias Schweighöfer). The relationship between these two characters adds constant humour through the course of the film.
With each individual character having a decent amount of screen time in the film, the film does have a fairly lengthy runtime of two and a half hours. For me this does feel unnecessarily long, particularly given the slow pace at the beginning of the film. Another factor which adds to the runtime and feels a bit unnecessary is the focus on the relationship between Dave Bautista’s character Scott Ward and his on-screen daughter Kate, played by Ella Purnell. This emotional tone doesn’t really add anything to the film and the attempt at adding a sentimental narrative is neither engaging nor entertaining.
Another issue I have with the film is its predictability. Towards the beginning of the film, there is a lot of mystery and promise, particularly when we are introduced to the zombie group of Alphas, but this is quickly swept under the rug and the film becomes all too familiar. After the first 10/15 minutes of the characters arriving in Vegas, it’s clear to see how things are going to pan out for the remainder of the film which is a little disappointing, given the unique setting and one-of-a-kind zombies.
As well as being predictable in terms of the narrative, Army of the Dead does leave a few questions unanswered and although the ending does set up for potential sequels, I don’t believe the unanswered questions are something which will be addressed anytime soon. Plus, there are numerous inconsistencies throughout the film which really bug me, for example one character gets bitten by a zombie and almost instantaneously turns into a member of the undead, whereas another character gets bitten but seemingly doesn’t turn into a zombie for a number of hours?! I feel like it’s these little inconsistencies which will irritate hardcore fans of the genre.
For all its mistakes however, there is a lot to like about Army of the Dead. It’s Las Vegas setting, ensemble cast and gory action sequences make it an enjoyable watch, it’s just a shame it never quite lives up to its early promise.
With its unique Las Vegas setting, ensemble cast and gory action, The Army of the Dead is certainly ambitious, but its lengthy runtime and emotional aspect to the narrative leave it feeling a little underwhelming.