Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Land of the Dead (2006)

Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Robert Joy

"They're just people."
-One Dumb Zombie Killer

You know what I don’t like? Being raped by alligators. You know what else I don’t like? Land of the Dead. UGH.

Okay, so we start off with what looks like a zombie convention as they stumble around in front of a building and play musical instruments. Gee, that’s…not threatening at all! They’re being watched by some normal people – or what this movie considers to be normal – named Riley, played by Simon Baker, and some other guy who gets killed off in a few minutes, so I won’t bother to learn his name. Riley is a Typical Depressed/Cynical Futuristic Dystopian Hero, making quips like “Aren’t we just pretending to be alive?” and “That’s what I like about you, you still believe in heaven.” This character is just delightful, isn’t he? He’s got all the personality of a goddamned paper clip. There’s one scene where he shoots a zombie and the guy next to him says “Nice shooting,” to which he replies, “Good shooting, Charlie. No such thing as nice shooting.” Great. So we’ve got a philosopher on our hands, too. Really glad this guy is our main character…ugh.

So they run into a burn victim named Charlie, played by Robert Joy, who does his best impersonation of what it would be like if zombies could talk and act like regular people, or if Nic Cage was a zombie, you take your pick. Okay, he’s mentally handicapped, and to be fair, he’s probably the best thing in this movie just for how unassuming and innocent he is even when he’s killing some fucking zombies, but it’s still kind of strange that they just randomly toss him in without any introduction…

Fuck it. We’re also introduced to our second in command, John Leguizamo, playing a guy named Cholo. His job is to ride motorcycles, perform hokey, overdone acting and give snarky replies to everything his leader Riley tells him. The apparent plan of this group is that they have a giant machine called Dead Reckoning that shoots off fireworks to distract the zombies so that they can kill them and raid the cities for supplies and food and stuff. Except apparently now the zombies are getting smarter and are able to think and even work together now, as is illustrated in one scene where this big black zombie helps his fellow zombies and pushes them out of the range of the gunfire. Oh no!...wait, I don’t care. The movie has given me no reason to care.

So the one sidekick guy from before gets bitten and shoots himself, and nobody seems to care except for Riley. Leguizamo and his buddies do some stupid motorcycle stunts in the middle of the street that should in all reality attract a lot of zombies to try and eat them, but I guess not in this movie. Having actual excitement might slow things down; you know the drill. And if they’re supposed to be so smart, how come these rebel guys aren’t killing more of them?

The basic story behind how the last fringes of humanity have survived in this post apocalyptic world is that they’ve walled off one specific city where the zombies can’t get to. The rich live in tall skyscrapers in nice homes while everyone else lives on the streets fending for food every way they can. We see Cholo and Riley returning from their mission as Riley chews out Cholo for celebrating after a good soldier just died. Cholo will hear none of it, and the scene is pretty much pointless.

Cholo goes up to one of the buildings to visit his supervisor Kaufman, and a random black guy almost kills him, telling him of something strange going on next door. So Cholo goes over and checks, finding a man who has hanged himself while his family for some reason did not hear him doing it. And then he turns into a zombie and bites his teenage son…huh. I don’t get it. So whenever people die, they just become zombies regardless of how they died? How does that work? Explanation please? None? Okay, fine, I’ll just…assume that the rope had some zombie blood caked on it and that it somehow got into his blood stream, infecting him as he died. There. It’s stupid, but it makes about as much sense as anything else in this goddamn movie!

Our next spectacle of this movie’s intellect comes when we see what the people of the city do with the zombies they captured – yes, they capture live zombies, because that could never go wrong…and to add insult to injury to the Romero legacy, here we see people taking pictures with them like they’re fucking circus attractions, and also shooting paintballs at them. And they use them in cage fights to bet money on, too! That’s…really weak. A lot of the stuff in this movie is like that. It’s just like, really? That’s what George Romero is giving us in 2006? C’mon. You can do better, man.

They throw in a prostitute played by the luscious Asia Argento, who is intended to be the ‘bait’ that the zombies fight over. Riley, while looking for a way to get his car back from a midget in a purple suit, notices this, and saves her, only for him, Charlie and the prostitute, whose name is Slack, to get arrested for killing the midget…yes, there are midgets in this post apocalyptic city. I don’t know why; that just seems funny to me that the movie would point that out. Between this and the retarded guy, they’re really pandering to the PC crowd, huh? Never thought I’d see the day a zombie movie did that. Equal rights for everyone to get murdered and eaten in a zombie flick, I guess…

But trouble’s afoot when we finally meet Kaufman, played by the late Dennis Hopper, in a performance that you will most likely forget five minutes after the end credits roll! Wait a second, Dennis Hopper? John Leguizamo? You’d be forgiven for thinking this was just a convention of B-minus list actors, but these two were also together in the much maligned Super Mario Bros. movie back in 1993 together. Who knew this would be their reunion? Let’s get some Goombas and mushrooms in here; maybe that would make this more interesting. Kaufman doesn’t want to let Cholo buy a room in his big building for no real reason, so Cholo gets PISSED OFF and rallies his men to steal Dead Reckoning and use it as leverage, planning to destroy the city and start a mutiny against him.

Bet you thought we forgot this one, huh Mr. Hopper?

So Riley, Charlie and Slack get released to go hunt him down, along with a few other mercenaries, two of which get killed off later without even doing anything…and we get about fifteen minutes of filler as Riley and his crew go hunting for Dead Reckoning. They come across a few parties of zombies who probably did not say grace before they sat down for their blood feasts, kill them, and move on. And while that’s going on, apparently the horde of zombies from outside the city breaks in rather easily, seeking to avenge their fallen zombie brothers.

…is it just me, or is the idea of cogent zombies who can actually think and form plans really lame? It’s not scary and it certainly doesn’t make for any kind of tension. It robs them of everything that was originally so interesting about them. Watching them assemble like some kind of army is just like “…huh?” What are we supposed to feel here? There is certainly no imminent terror. It’s just…well, weak. Zombies go swimming through the water…huh, well I don’t give a crap.

In a surprisingly, stupidly easy finish, Riley and pals get Dead Reckoning back from Cholo and then they go to fight off the zombie hordes. Cholo gets bitten and decides he wants to be a zombie…yawn, yawn, yawn, WHERE’S THE EXCITING STUFF? Get to it, movie! I’ve been to knitting classes more interesting than this movie. So Cholo goes after Kaufman, who has been abandoned in the parking garage. Kaufman is attacked by the big black zombie who actually pieces together in his rotting brain how to pour gasoline on the car and then throw a Molotov cocktail at it, blowing it to bits.

But not before this exchange: Cholo comes in, shadows on his face like the movie thinks it’s actually suspenseful as to whom he is, and Kaufman says, “No…you’re dead.” That’s a clich√© and stupid line in itself, except that then he comes fully out of the shadows to reveal that he has become a zombie, to which Kaufman replies, “You really are dead,” right before Cholo bites him and they both get set on fire and blown to bits. Ha! Oh, Romero, you kidder, you. Always the comedian…oh, man, this is a bad movie.

Meanwhile, Riley and Charlie are marveling over how easy it was for the zombies to get in and eat everyone. They watch over a scene of death, destruction and flames as they have a moment’s consideration before they launch a missile and blow everything up. “They’re just people,” one woman with them says about the flesh eating demons from hell, as if there isn’t a reason to stop them from killing innocent people. But Riley tells him to do it, so Charlie presses the button and blows them up anyway. Hooray for destruction and violence!

But of course there has to be an uplifting ending for no reason, so we actually get some sympathy for the zombies – yes, really, sympathy for the goddamn zombies. That’s a new one. Yeah, have sympathy for them; they’re only killing everyone you know without any intention of stopping! You think they’ll really show you that same kindness the next time you’re under their mercy, you frigging idiots? What, is there going to be a sequel where these assholes form a Zombie Liberation Front dedicated to protecting the rights and safety of those who are not living and who eat brains to survive? Ugh, what a dumb idea. Riley doesn’t kill the head zombie because “he’s just looking for a place to go.” Maybe in a more compelling movie this could have been a good plot point, but in this movie, it’s just weak, and it wasn’t even a plot point for the entire movie anyway, so what the hell? They just...randomly introduce it at the end because apparently the movie needed a moral or something! Like everything else in this movie, the idea of sympathetic zombies is weak-ass, pussy crap for people who aren’t cool enough to watch the good Romero films from back in the day. Pff, pass me the vomit bag.

Land of the Dead is a huge waste of time! Nothing about this movie is exciting, nothing about it is scary and nothing about it merits a viewing at all, even if you’ve already seen all of the good zombie flicks. The acting is menial, the direction tame and indistinct and the plot is just weak. What happened, George Romero? How did you sink to such a gut-wrenchingly lame and pussified low as this movie? This is just shit, shit, shit all around, and the only way I can possibly recommend it to anyone is if you have absolutely no standards. Otherwise, you can just take a look at a pile of actual shit and you’d probably have something of equal worth. Putrid.