Published on June 14th, 2019 | by Dan Nicholls0
The Dead Don’t Die
The Dead Don’t Die misses a real opportunity to rejuvenate a genre and introduce a true master to legions of young film geeks in training.
It’s clear very early on in The Dead Don’t Die that all the advertising and marketing for the film has grossly misrepresented the strange, slow, and meta mix concocted by writer/director Jim Jarmusch. To be fair, though, the movie is somewhat difficult to define. It’s a zombie flick – sure, that’s easy to sell – and it’s got an amazingly impressive ensemble led by Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloe Sevigny that’s down to deadpan until dawn. But it’s executed terribly unevenly, like the grand ideas got sidetracked a bit too much by the style inherently custom to its maker’s design.
Story-wise, what you see is what you get. It’s your standard-issue small-town zombie invasion B-movie from decades past. It’s just on a very different wavelength riding on dry humor and socio-political overtones – its execution is wholly unique, regardless of how your taste buds enjoy it. Be warned this particular blend isn’t going to be many people’s favorite dish. There are some guaranteed big laughs but they come few and far between, filling the voids with small smiles and smirks and a solid dose of impatience.
But oh, how the movie tries to please! The sheer talent and joy of the cast itself makes The Dead Don’t Die sorta worth viewing. Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, RZA, and Iggy Pop help keep each scene from sinking too embarrassingly deep. Sadly, each scene usually overstays its welcome by a good three or four minutes.
Easy jokes about MAGA, climate change, and corporate greed makes text out of what should’ve been subtext, leaving very little underneath the surface to excavate. When you’re silently tapping your foot waiting for something to happen it’s just more painful when there’s not much else you can occupy your mind with.
Jim Jarmusch is an amazingly smart guy and an endlessly fascinating storyteller (his recent Paterson also starring Adam Driver is a real highlight) so The Dead Don’t Die won’t be a stain on his filmography, but it had so much potential to be a satirical high mark. It misses a real opportunity to rejuvenate a genre and introduce a true master to legions of young film geeks in training. That it lands somewhere in a weird grey middle area is disappointing, to say the least. Still, the movie has just enough ironic fun to recommend for the wry hipsters in the crowd even if general audiences aren’t going to make much of it.