Land Of The Dead (2005)
Who knew that one day the great Dennis Hopper would utter the line “Zombies, man. They creep me out.”
George A. Romero returns with, surprise surprise, another zombi movie (the “dead” in the title may have clued you in to this fact) and it’s really pretty damn good.
The world is full of haves and have-nots as zombies wander around, providing themselves as target practice to those who have the unenviable task of fetching supplies for the residents of Fiddler’s Green and it’s surrounding cityscape. Simon Baker plays Riley, the leader of this ragtag bunch but he’s not planning to stick around much longer, sickened as he is by the imbalance of power and wealth he sees around him. John Leguizamo is Cholo, his second-in-command but is also not planning to be around for long mainly because he wants to buy his way in to the expensive complex they currently keep well-stocked in luxury items. But when he’s refused admittance to the exclusive lifestyle he has long yearned to attain Cholo takes some serious action, taking the badass zombie-squishing truck known as Dead Reckoning and holding the city to ransom. It’s up to Riley, his best bud Charlie (played by Robert Joy), Slack (Asia Argento) and some rent-a-goons to stop everything being laid to waste but will they get the result they want? And will anyone notice that the zombies now seem to be learning and communicating before it’s too late?
Despite the many criticisms levelled at it by fans, this is in many ways the quintessential Romero zombie movie. The “godfather of ghouls” finally gets a lot of things he must have always wanted in his quest to get his decaying vision on screen. The budget is there and is really shown off well with some great effects (don’t watch this if you don’t have the stomach for it) and impressive set-pieces, the cast is full of people who can actually do a really good job (no offence to those in previous Romero zombie movies but there were always at least one or two who couldn’t hide their inexperience . . . . . hell, even Asia Argento does pretty well here and that’s quite a feat) and it’s a treat to see Dennis Hopper delivering some great lines while a hungry crowd of zombies approaches his precious haven. Which leads me nicely to the script. It’s smart, witty and concise; sketching some characterisations and getting you to care about the right people while also moving things from one piece of nastiness to the next. And, it almost goes without saying, we get some enjoyable social commentary yet again from Romero although nothing that detracts from the sheer entertainment of extreme zombie carnage.
I guess the biggest hurdle that most people find with the movie is the development of the zombies themselves and the character of Big Daddy, a forlorn leader who somehow manages to communicate with others and show them how to use certain tools. It may be too far removed from the “pure” shambling zombie that Romero fans love but it’s done in a believable and unrushed way, depicting a natural learning curve for a race that finally become motivated enough to rise up and see what else they can find outside of their permitted boundaries. But I’m not going to convince anyone with that argument, you either buy into the idea or you don’t. I did and am glad of it.
With Land Of The Dead, I think Romero has made one of his best modern movies. As part of the “dead” series it doesn’t have the raw power of “Night” and may not be the perfect thrill-ride that “Dawn” was but it’s certainly neck and neck with the fantastic “Day” instalment and that’s high praise indeed from a fan of all three previous zombie classics.
Director: George A. Romero.
Stars: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento.
Running Time: Approx. 97 mins.