Chew's Reviews - The Dead Don't Die

By Gary Chew |  

I really enjoyed Jim Jarmusch's 2005 film, BROKEN FLOWERS.  Bill Murray starred in it. Of course, Bill was at his best. When I heard Jim has a new film with Murray in the lead ... and deals with, of all things, zombies … I knew I had to see it, pronto. The decision came to me even though I avoid routine zombie flicks and those atrocious episodic binges that now haunt cable TV. I got to see Jarmusch's new film the other evening before its official open in my market.

With his zombie parody, Jarmusch has set out on an impossible mission to create another pretty darn good movie. Why, surely you wonder.

The messaging threads of THE DEAD DON'T DIE are herewith listed: parodying all that's creepy and grisly; punking the dull-minded and those not with an urbane persuasion; taking to task corporate greed for inexorably destroying the environment of the only planet we got! And finally, underscoring it with a “cheery,” nihilistic coda. Whoa. Not even Jim Jarmusch could bring that off. Or could he?

Centerville is a small town not unlike “Ebbing, Missouri” with local peace officers of the same variety.  Sheriff Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) has two stalwart deputies: Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Mindy (Chloe Sevigny). A local citizen named Hank Thompson is played by Danny Glover, and Hermit Bob, who stays out in the woods observing all that happens in Centerville, is done by Tom Waits. Hermit Bob you might call the narrator of the piece. (I swore for a moment that Waits was Bert Lahr, as seen in THE WIZARD OF OZ) Seems Farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) is accusing old Bob of stealing the farmer's chickens. After a fruitless reconnoitering of Farmer Frank's acreage and Sheriff Robertson demurring on taking Hermit Bob back to a cell, the fit really begins to slowly hit the shan.

The Sheriff has learned that the Earth has shifted on it axis and everything on the planet is becoming really weird. Even the sun is acting up. Soon some local citizens at the local diner are found dead ... partially eaten and sprawled on the linoleum.

The first zombies slinking on scene are played by Iggy Popp and -- the director's main squeeze -- Sara Driver. Both are as gruesomely bloody and disgusting as those seen on THE WALKING DEAD:  just what I didn't need to see, since I was counting on Jarmusch allowing for only a few tick-tocks of big-time gore. Clearly, the director is going, as much, for ticket sales from folks digging the dreck in vogue on tube and screen as he is, thanks to movie lovers who get stoked poking fun at serious zombie-loving fans.

Thus, if you're wanting to see a really funny parody about zombies and social commentary, you'll have to sit through lots of… I mean really lots of … grisly, gory decapitations and mayhem. It's a very big order to put all that together and create an effective payoff. I vote for Jarmusch not bringing it off, except for a very large number of heads.

My suggestion is that you see the first half of the film. I was mucho guffawing and giggling for lots of that. Part II … not so much. To my way of thinking, the second half of THE DEAD DON'T DIE was twice as long as the first half . That makes the film seem exceedingly lengthy. It much like telling the same “joke” over and over again.

Even with a supporting bid by the ever weird, but talented Tilda Swinton as the newly arrived funeral director for Centerville's only undertaking business, a flatness takes hold of the movie after its humorously contrived exposition.

Ms.Swinton plays much like you'd expect she would, save for the focus she gets during selected moments that arrive a few frames prior to a nihilistic closure spoken by Waits.  Yes, grizzly as a bear old Hermit Bob peeking through the bushes at Centerville's horrific plight ... dressed in his Bert Lahr lion suit.  

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