IGN’s review published on Letterboxd:
BY ROSIE KNIGHT This is an advance review. The Dead Don't Die opens June 14, 2019.
Like any good zombie movie, The Dead Don't Die is set somewhere in Pennsylvania. If you don't immediately understand why that is--nearly all of George Romero's iconic Dead series was set there--then this might not be the film for you. However, if you're a fan of Jim Jarmusch and/or zombie horror then you'll probably be charmed by this enjoyable-if-slight zom-com.
The core setup is simple as two bumbling cops, Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Cliff (Bill Murray), face down an encroaching environmental crisis that appears to be making the dead... undead. In the age of The Walking Dead and zombie pop culture saturation, the ghoulish comedy of The Dead Don't Die may seem a little behind the cultural zeitgeist. But it's still an amusing watch as Jarmusch and friends are clearly having a lot of fun exploring and poking fun at the tropes that have become such a core part of our contemporary conversation.
Despite being his most recent film, The Dead Don't Die definitely feels closer to some of Jarmusch's earlier work. It's a simple story that relies on an ensemble cast, and it could arguably-- aside from the resurgence of the dead--be said to be a film where nothing much happens. Just like the zombies at the center of the film, it sort of lumbers around from joke to joke and bit to bit, but that's not actually a bad thing. The directionless nature of the flick actually works because the film is at its best as an atmosphere piece, tonally eerie and strange with comedy that flits between metahumor and a self-awareness that may well grate on some.
With a cast as stacked as we've come to expect Jarmusch films to have, there are cameos from stalwarts of the auteur's catalog like Iggy Pop and Eszter Balint as well from regular collaborators like RZA--who is particularly great if underused as a "Wu-PS" delivery man--and Hollywood stars like Danny Glover and Steve Buscemi. One of the director's favorite muses, Tom Waits, takes on the role of the half-narrator Hermit Bob. The forest-dwelling vagrant seems to be the only person in town smart enough to stay away from the undead invasion and takes on the mantle of the severe Walking Dead-esque voiceover that reminds us just how futile life and fighting for it really is. After all, maybe the capitalist humans were the real zombies all along.
It's in this messaging that the film slightly loses its way. Jarmusch's satire at times seems like an Ouroboros of pop culture references slowly eating itself. As it reaches its climax it starts to become hard to understand whether the on-the-nose anti-capitalist analogies are so heavy-handed as to mock the once-striking but now overdone trope or because Jarmusch just really hates people being on their phones all the time. It's a small flaw, but it's a shame; if it was a little bit more decisive and about 15 minutes shorter, The Dead Don't Die would've been a real tight little bite of zombie goodness.
That's not to say it's not a good watch, though. Driver was apparently made to wield a machete and deliver (un)deadpan prophecies about the end of the world. His sincere turn as the town's deputy sheriff is another riff on the world-encompassing success of AMC's hit zombie show, and it's hard not to wonder if Jarmusch wrote the script after binge-watching the over-serious television phenomenon and thinking that it could do with being taken down a peg or two. Murray is very Murray-ish as Driver's partner, and the pair are joined for most of the film by Chloe Sevigny's Mindy, who feels a bit wasted but is still a lot of fun as the story's hysterical woman.
For what is essentially an easy on the eye horror comedy, it feels like The Dead Don't Die is probably going to be pretty divisive. The zombie-like pace and the lack of a real conflict or definite resolution may mean that many mainstream movie fans might not get what they're expecting when they watch it. And hardcore Jarmusch fans may find themselves surprised by the simplicity and wide appeal of the film; it's easily his most accessible film since he began his career in 1980. Despite that, though, The Dead Don't Die is a fun watch with solid performances, a funny script, beautiful cinematography, and a visually interesting new vision for zombies and their inevitable demises, which is a hard thing to achieve after over 50 years of undead movies.
Many Jim Jarmusch fans will have been hoping for a genre movie that reimagines the wheel here, which The Dead Don't Die is not. But just like his last foray into horror, Only Lovers Left Alive, this is a love letter to a subgenre of monster movies that's become as much a part of Americana as apple pie and baseball. The generic suburban setting and little political nods will likely leave some fans wishing this had a more hard-hitting message in the current climate like some of its thematic precursors, but in the end this is arguably Jarmusch's first popcorn movie and it's a pretty good one at that.
Original review: www.ign.com/articles/2019/05/16/the-dead-dont-die-review