‘The Dead Don’t Die’ // Film Review: A Zombie Comedy for Hipsters

Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, RZA, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Caleb Landry Jones, Carol Kane

Writer and Director: Jim Jarmusch

Runtime: 103 Minutes

Studio: Focus Features

Jim Jarmusch’s latest take on the tale of the undead, The Dead Don’t Die, is surprisingly the first movie I’ll ever see from the talented writer/director. Since he’s been around since the 80s and established himself in the independent realm for some people, hearing that he’s doing a new feature will bring some excitement to fans.

What’s the Story: In a small peaceful town of Centerville, zombies suddenly rise to terrorize the town. Now three bespectacled police officers (Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny) and a strange Scottish morgue expert (Tilda Swinton) must band together to defeat the undead.

Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, and Adam Driver in The Dead Don't Die (2019)

As I believe the zombie genre in entertainment has died out a while ago due to the popularity of The Walking Dead on TV, there was something about the trailers to The Dead Don’t Die that would’ve led this to be somewhat entertaining. Though absolutely nothing could compete against Shaun of the Dead in my mind. And with this being my first experience viewing anything from Jarmusch, I honestly expected it to be better since I feel like there’s a better movie hidden somewhere in this.

You look at this ensemble that includes the likes of Murray, Driver, Swinton, Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Austin Butler, RZA, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Caleb Landry Jones, Carol Kane. Since you have this huge cast involved, half of them are wasted. I didn’t care about most of their character’s uninteresting side plots. For instance, we follow this group of kids in this juvenile detention center or the group of hipsters that stops by the town.

What I can easily say the best part about this is the chemistry and performances from Murray and Driver as chief Cliff and deputy Ronnie. Both of them are some of my favorite actors, and it was great to see them work together in a deadpan manner is kind of amusing. Coincidentally, Murray and Driver worked with Jarmusch in the past with 2005’s Broken Flowers and 2016’s Paterson, respectively. Instead of this, could I just see a standalone comedy with these characters, please?

When comes to the zombie aspect of The Dead Don’t Die. The reasoning for the dead to walk the earth was because of the fracking that’s been going around, and I couldn’t buy into it considering I don’t know much about the fracking problems that the world is having. It takes a while for everything to hit the fan. I say that because, after the first zombie killing, there’s this long stretch before the action kicks into high gear. It doesn’t get boring per se, but something funny or suspenseful should’ve been that place.

Adam Driver in The Dead Don't Die (2019)

Its use of dry, deadpan humor wasn’t working for me. That kind of humor gets me in other things, although not in here. The repeated jokes became a little tired, or it wasn’t particularly funny the first time around. Most of the time, it has a hard time trying to make that tone work, and it doesn’t in a couple of scenes. I mean, Tilda Swinton killing zombies with nothing but a freakin’ sword sounds awesome in my head. Just poorly executed here.

But did this try to bring anything new to the table for a premise like this? I wouldn’t say so. The potential was there, and I was waiting for nearly anything to be impressive when watching any form of a zombie flick. At least Anna and the Apocalypse incorporated a musical element. What does this have? Some brief political jabs and deadpan dialogue, which might work for some. Once it led to its anti-climatic ending, I was left thinking this won’t last in my mind for a while.

You think somebody like Wes Anderson could make The Dead Don’t Die his style and it might probably work with its creativity behind. But that doesn’t work well enough here, unfortunately. This could’ve been a funny satire of the zombie genre that was caught up with the on the noise themes, and it failed to be both funny and scary if that was the intention. It just didn’t feel like Jarmusch had a good script on his part. If you’re a massive fan of the director or whose involved in this, then go ahead and check it out for yourself. Otherwise, it rides on the line of being just a rental.

Grade: C

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