Friday, June 28, 2019

The Dead Don't Die

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm not interested in zombies. I've just found them to be boring. When I have liked zombies, it's been in a more comedic fashion. The only zombie films I've liked were 28 Days Later, which is one of the best horror films ever made, 28 Weeks Later, Dead Alive, Zombieland, & Shaun of the Dead. Other than that, I'm not a fan.

The Dead Don't Die is a bit aimless & didactic at times, but it's a solid zom-com. The film follows Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), the police chief of Centerville, Pennsylvania. Cliff & Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) have just investigated a complaint by cartoonishly racist farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) that Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) stole a chicken from him. On their way back, they notice that it is still light out at 8pm, & Ronnie's watch & cellphone die. They go to a diner where they meet with Hank Thompson (Danny Glover), the owner of the local hardware store, who hears of a radio report about polar fracking. Waitress Fern (Eszter Balint) also remarks about it still being light out. After this, Cliff & Ronnie return to the police station, where Officer Mindy Morrison (Chlöe Sevigny) is at. Cliff stays at the station with the corpse of town drunk Mallory O'Brien (Carol Kane).

Elsewhere in town, at the Centerville Juvenile Detention Center, Geronimo (Jahi Winston) tells fellow inmates Olivia (Taliyah Whitaker) & Stella (Maya Delmont) that the polar fracking has changed the Earth's rotation. Dean (RZA), a deliveryman for WU-PS, delivers rare magazines to Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones), the owner of the gas station & memorabilia store. Hank, Fern, & cleaner Lily (Rosal Colon) talk about Mallory. Cleveland hipsters Zoe (Selena Gomez), Jack (Austin Butler) & Zach (Luka Sabbat) travel to Centerville, enter Bobby's gas station, purchase a CD of Sturgill Simpson's The Dead Don't Die, & check in at Danny's Moonlight Motel, owned by Danny Perkins (Larry Fessenden). News reporter Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez) reports about pets behaving strangely. New undertaker Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) practices her samurai skills.

As night falls on Centerville, two coffee-obsessed zombies (Sara Driver & Iggy Pop) reanimate, go to the diner, & kill Fern & Lily. Hank finds them the next morning, & calls Cliff, Ronnie, & Mindy. Ronnie believes that zombies did it, & also remarks that this won't end well. It is now up to Cliff, Ronnie, Mindy, & Zelda to stop the zombie apocalypse.

The cast is terrific. Bill Murray is super deadpan & hilarious. Adam Driver is also super deadpan & hilarious. Tilda Swinton is glorious as usual. And the rest of the cast is superb.

Jim Jarmusch's direction is great. While the film somewhat loses sight in the third act, it is overcome by his exemplary minimalist shot style & his affinity for deadpan visual comedy.

And Jim Jarmusch's screenplay is very good. While the themes become didactic in the third act, & the plot is a bit too aimless, but his characters are lovingly idiosyncratic, & the deadpan dialogue is often hilarious.

This is a solid deadpan look at the current state of affairs in the world. Although it is a polarizing film for sure, & definitely not a perfect one, it has enough in it to keep it away from becoming a dead end.

The Dead Don't Die was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Saturday, June 15, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 104 minutes, & it is rated R for zombie violence/gore, & for language.

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