When the living die but cannot remain deceased, they’re reanimated into something more gouless, soulless, and undead — zombies. Zombies have been around in cinema for over 85 years with an explosion of popularity since the dawn of the new millennium. Writer and director Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, The Dead Don’t Die, is another entry in a long list of zombie films of the 21st century. The Focus Features horror-comedy has an ensemble cast that includes Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry Jones, RZA, Rosie Perez and Selena Gomez. The film follows a small town’s police force as they combat a zombie invasion. Spoilers after the trailer.
Based on the trailer for this film it looked like it would be a fun and exciting movie in the vain of a film such as Zombieland. Y’know a zombie comedy that would be filled with laughs from start to finish. The Dead Don’t Die had one thing that worked for it through the whole film and that’s the relationship between the two leading actors.
The relationship between Centreville police officers, Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Ronald “Ronnie” Peterson (Adam Driver) was the funniest thing about this film. Deadpan humor is abundant throughout the movie, but it works at its best in any scene where Peterson and Robertson interact.
There’s a running gag throughout the film where Peterson drives his Prius to the scene of a crime. Peterson breaks the fourth wall throughout the entire film and he has a Star Wars keychain, which is a wink to Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo Ren. This leaves Robertson to wonder what Peterson is talking about when he goes on his meta rants. To add to the film’s metaness, there’s a Sturgill Simpson song that’s named after the film’s title, that multiple characters in the film love.
Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) is Centreville’s resident mortician who moonlights as a ninja. She’s so odd yet her character works somehow. For some reason her character leaves Centreville in a spaceship which is surprisingly not the strangest thing about this film.
Zoe (Selena Gomez) is a character with a smaller role in the film. She and her friends come from out of town during the zombie apocalypse and end up turning into zombies. Their deaths happened off-screen and I wish that Jarmusch would’ve done more with their story because it was interesting to see how non-Centreville citizens react during this apocalypse.
What Jarmusch got right about this film is the different characters in the small town. Their interactions felt believable for the most part and they were a diverse group of people. Whether it was a senior citizen like Hank Thompson (Danny Glover), the local delivery guy Dean (RZA) or the socially awkward store clerk Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones) everyone felt like they had a purpose and the film takes place in a larger world.
The Dead Should Remain Dead
Unfortunately, no matter how enjoyable the characters were, The Dead Don’t Die felt like it needed to be trimmed down to about 20 minutes shorter or for someone to revise Jarmusch’s script. The film is only 104 minutes long but there are moments in the film that
move at a zombie’s pace are just so dry and become a slog to sit through.
There is a whole subplot that involves pre-teens in a juvenile detention center and it could’ve been taken out of the film. The payoff doesn’t deserve the amount of time that Jarmusch gave it. That time would’ve been better suited for exploring the other characters that make up the population of Centreville.
Officer Minerva “Mindy” Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) doesn’t mesh well with the other two officers on the force. She’s awkward, but it’s in a way that affects the flow of the film.
Off the strength of the trailer, The Dead Don’t Die looked like it had the potential to be a sleeper hit or cult classic that it failed to deliver. Adam Driver and Bill Murray were a great pairing, but the film tries to do too much with a lousy script. Luckily for Jim Jarmusch, these actors wanted to work with him, yet he failed to deliver on his end. The film tries to make a smart statement on fracking, which is ironically drilled into the film. If the dead don’t die then they shouldn’t be able to escape development hell, unlike Jim Jarmusch’s script.
[All Mames Wey]
The Dead Don’t Die is now available on DVD, Blu-ray release and digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes.
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