Dan's Review: The Quirky Life of "The Dead Don't Die"
Jun 14, 2019 05:52PM
By Dan Metcalf
Bill Murray and Adam Driver in The Dead Don't Die - © 2019 Focus Features.
The Dead Don’t Die (Focus Features)
Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language.
Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler, Eszter Balint, Luka Sabbat, Larry Fessenden, Rosal Colon, Sturgill Simpson, Maya Delmont, Taliyah Whitaker, Jahi Winston.
Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Who’s turn is it to make a zombie movie? Jim Jarmusch, you’re up. Having run the gamut of other views of zombie culture, why not allow a quirky, minimalist poet/auteur/indie filmmaker a chance to place the “undead” in front of his peculiar lens? The result is The Dead Don’t Die, a new comedy starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver as two small-town cops who deal with an incoming zombie apocalypse.
Chief Cliff Robertson (Murray) and his young partner Ronnie (Driver) begin to notice strange happenings in the town of Centerville (not Utah), dubbed as “A Real Nice Place.” The sun doesn’t set at the proper time, bugs, birds, and pets behave strangely, and townsfolk begin to disappear, or their mutilated bodies are discovered. Other quirky townsfolk (played by Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, and Tom Waits) also take notice and resort to varying styles of self-preservation. Mindy (Chloë Sevigny) another Centerville officer joins the other cops to investigate the deaths of two diner waitresses partially eaten by “coffee zombies” (Iggy Pop and Sara Driver), things begin to unravel quickly, especially after a trio of young travelers are found mutilated in the local motel. The officers find an unlikely ally in Zelda (Tilda Swinton), the enigmatic town mortician who also dabbles in samurai swordplay (handy for a zombie movie, no?) to take on the horde of undead. As the crisis unravels and the town is overrun, the police try one last push to survive.
The Dead Don’t Die is “peak Jarmusch,” relying on plenty of verbal and visual irony, some subtle and some not so much. The two gags that really work are the breaking down of the “fourth wall” as actors reference the movie, its script and Sturgill Simpson’s country music theme song (appropriately titled “The Dead Don’t Die”). The other gag is zombie behavior, which mirrors the desires of the living (zombies seek that which the loved when they were living, such as WiFi, coffee and other vices, ha, ha).
These comedic devices are truly funny, but only at the moment they are revealed. Once they’re out there, the absurdity and irony wear off quickly, making them feel more like cheap gimmicks. In between, there is very funny dialogue and a lot of zombie gore.
Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, and Tilda Swinton deliver charming performances, making me wonder if their characters might have been better suited for a traditional narrative comedy, rather than a quirky Jarmusch indie, dripping with sarcastic, societal commentary.
The Dead Don’t Die isn’t the comedy knockout I’d hoped it would be, but it’s got just enough snippets of funny moments to satisfy audiences who are looking for something a little different.
"The Dead Don't Die" Trailer