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'Army of the Dead' marches strong with zombie-slaying thrills

Phil on Film
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Posted at 1:38 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 13:38:33-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) -- It takes the Zack Snyder touch to make zombie flicks seem new again. "Army of the Dead" eschews the recent comedic and ironic touches of the genre, barreling into the material as a straight-up action flick.

Fresh off the massively overindulgent, yet oddly captivating "Zack Snyder's Justice League," the filmmaker lets loose with a wild, lengthy beast of a zombie movie. If you're a Snyder fan, you'll be right at home in the visionary's go-for-broke, testosterone-fueled mindscape.

The director goes back to the well he first pumped in his 2004 "Dawn of the Dead" remake. Mixing the roustabout-roundup premise of "The Dirty Dozen" with a touch of the Vegas heist-flick feel of "Ocean's Eleven," the film keeps the action flowing and one-liners flying.

The film's soldiers wield colossal firepower and face some terrifying beasts, including a zombified tiger that's suited to be an end boss in a video game. That flows with the general feel of the film, which plays like a game come to life.

That's a typical Snyder trademark, as are explosive visuals and clever use of music. "Army of the Dead" boasts a particularly catchy cover of "Viva Las Vegas" to kick things off, as well as a chilling use of the Cranberries' "Zombie." Also present -- just about everpresent in Snyderland -- a touch of gratuitous nudity.

As the film's lone bankable star, Danny Bautista thrives at the center of the storm. It's a little discombobulating to see him in a serious role after a string of comedies, but he sinks into the role with teeth-gnashing forcefulness.

Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera orbit around Bautista for requisite one-liners and grandstanding.

Bautista's character leads a crew of specialized mercenaries who have scraped by through the zombie apocalypse, but see a ray of light with a life-changing big score.

With the overarching mission to track down and swipe $200 million from a casino vault, the gang makes its way to Vegas with bowling-ball momentum.

Characters romp through the action scenes with stylized panache, dual-wielding pistols, mowing down the undead with machine-gun spray, and leaping away from explosions and tumbling structures. The zombie fights tend to play out in a rote manner, but the pacing is brisk enough to keep things from flatlining.

"Army of the Dead" may not tread new ground, but it functions as brain-dead comfort food to tide you over as we draw closer to summer. It's definitely worth enlisting in your Netflix queue.

RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
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