Zack Snyder’s new zombie flick “Army of the Dead” opens with a grand, highly self-aware and mildly entertaining first 15-minutes. With a rendition of “Viva Las Vegas” blaring over an elaborate montage, we get an idea of what’s to come — at least we think we do.
Zombies have taken over Sin City. Tens of thousands of people have died. But there’s good news: All the zombies are all contained within the Vegas strip, which is going to be nuked in four days. End of problem.
Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward helped end the initial undead uprising. He’s hired by a shady casino owner to go back into the restricted zone and retrieve $50 million from a casino vault — before the bomb is dropped. He puts together a group of mercenaries for the mission, which also includes avoiding being part of a zombie buffet.
The ‘rounding up the gang’ section isn’t bad, either. Snyder takes his time (resulting in a two and a half hour runtime). But this offbeat version of compiling an “Ocean’s”- esque heist team is kind of fun, and the varying characters do provide some substance.
But once everyone gets inside the walled-up Vegas, “Army of the Dead” becomes painfully lifeless. This predictably quirky group (including Scott’s estranged daughter) is constantly at odds with each other. The dull dialogue is endless, as we care less and less about these characters as the movie progresses. The “action” consists of shooting zombies in the head. That’s it.
Every scene is three times longer than it needed to be. Snyder add nothing fresh, exciting or inspiring to the zombie genre. (Marc Forster’s “World War Z” was much more compelling). And the hints of irreverence and fun we get early never reappear. The obvious song choices don’t do the trick.
But the most annoying thing about “Army of the Dead” is the predictability of the script. I called-out every “twist” and “surprise” at least 15 minutes before they happened. The corny dialogue and sappy sentimentality isn’t played for laughs — it’s legit. The only rewarding part of this experience was correctly guessing who was and wasn’t going to make it out “alive”.
“Army of the Dead” is similar to sitting down at a slot machine. You win a little early and think a big payoff is coming. But the longer you play, the more you lose and the more disappointed you feel.
LCJ GRADE: D+
Running Time: 148 min.