By Adam Ray Palmer
After missing this film at Cannes, I couldn’t wait to sit down and revel in all the talent on the big screen.
A few of the names on the bill include Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny and Caleb Landry Jones. What a huge wage bill, surely a classic ensues…
Not quite… Jim Jamusch returns with a zombie film and an all-star cast, just minus the bite. Following his critically acclaimed offering in 2016 with Paterson, also starring Adam Driver, The Dead Don’t Die opened the Cannes Film Festival this year and also had a big 600-seater showing today at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Praise was muted at Cannes, and it wasn’t much louder here either.
This film is certainly style over substance here. I always get nervous when you see a huge cast full of A-listers because I immediately judge it for papering over some kind of production cracks. There are many blemishes in this film that just don’t quite make it tick. For a film that is a little over one hour and forty minutes, it feels like an age in your seat.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly laughs throughout, but they are few and far between. I feel this film is stuck in a few genres and it doesn’t quite nail any of them. Some jokes are repetitive, and the zombie scenes don’t occur until the second half of the film. It starts really amusing when the central protagonists Chief Cliff (Murray) and Officer Peterson (Driver) poke fun at the script by saying “This Dead Don’t Die song sounds familiar” remarks Bill, quickly followed by Adam commenting “It’s because it’s the theme song”. It’s very much a film within a film but too similar jokes just keep on coming.
I think the idea here is interesting, but for me, the execution doesn’t quite do it justice. I did find solace in Adam Driver and Bill Murray though; their chemistry was certainly a highlight and I would love another buddy type film with those pair at the helm.
On the whole, it’s a frustrating watch. You can see the good in it but for me I couldn’t quite grasp it all. Perhaps this film is divisive though as a few cinema-goers belly laughed throughout. For me, I had high expectations and it didn’t even push a hand through the surface. I guess my preferred version of this film is still six feet under.
Cineroom’s rating: 2 Stars
The Dead Don’t Die is released in UK cinemas on 12th July 2019 – certificate 15