Main cast: Simon Baker (Riley Denbo), Dennis Hopper (Paul Kaufman), Asia Argento (Slack), Robert Joy (Charlie Houk), Eugene Clark (Big Daddy), Brian McFee (MUlligan), and John Leguizamo (Cholo DeMora)
Director: George A Romero
Land Of The Dead sees the grandfather of zombie movies, George A Romero, back at the helm to follow up his Dead series about ten years after Day Of The Dead. He also wrote the screenplay. Of course, by this time, zombie movies are clichés, thanks to legions of amateurs who believe that their low budget movies will somehow propel them into cult stardom.
This movie tries to be a bit different, by setting the whole thing sometime in the future. It's about three years after zombies came up and munched on people, so the survivors gather in outposts to live and defend themselves against those hungry creatures. Fiddler's Green is the Utopia of these outposts, as people live in wealth and privilege - provided they have the money to buy their way into the gilded cage. The boss of Fiddler's Green, Paul Kaufman, runs the place like a well-oiled machinery, with a stake in every business venture in the place, legal or illegal.
Fiddler's Green is well defended against the zombies, thanks mostly to Dead Reckoning, a heavily armored vehicle used to accompany scavenging parties. Its creator, Riley Denbo, is the bleeding heart who is increasingly jaded with how the wealthy live in luxury while the poor live in mostly undefended squalor.
His second-in-command, Cholo DeMora, is the typical selfish lout type who only cares for his own advancement, and he wants to live among the wealthy in Fiddler's Green. When his application to buy a home is rejected by Kaufman, Cholo takes off with Dead Reckoning, threatening to send a few missiles to Fiddler's Green unless Kaufman pays him a lot of money. Kaufman asks Riley to get back Dead Reckoning, and Riley agrees. Actually, Riley plans to get Dead Reckoning back, but he's not giving it back to Kaufman. He will instead take himself and his friends in that vehicle to find a better place to live.
Will all this shenanigan going on, will anyone notice the zombie invasion? Yes, the zombies are evolving, becoming more intelligence, and now, they are going to storm Fiddler's Green and take it for themselves...
Now, zombie movies are not the most logical films around, as the very idea of a decomposing corpse somehow managing to have the strength to tear apart a person does not fly in the face of physics and biology. Let's not even start with the notion that a rotting corpse still needs sustenance.
Funny thing is, even as I am willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to zombie movies - and I am certainly willing to do so - I'm still distracted by other things. Such as, for example, how on earth the people of Fiddler's Green manage to find the resources to maintain the whole place in such neat and tidy condition. When there are zombies out there and so few people left, why on earth are these people still placing so much importance on money? I mean, what's all that money going to buy? More importantly, why is the security of Fiddler's Green so dismal when the zombies crash the party when early on I'm shown soldiers patrolling the grounds regularly?
On the bright side, the budget of this movie is far above that of Mr Romero's previous films, and it shows. The set is so shiny, and there are some pretty decent names headlining the cast here. Not that the actors are breaking any new grounds here - Simon Baker is still flashing those sad puppy eyes of his, Asia Argento is still playing the tough chick, Denis Hopper the megalomaniac, John Leguizamo the manic villain - the usual repertoire, in other words. But they turn in some pretty solid performances to keep the paper-thin story going.
Unfortunately, Land Of The Dead is just another zombie movie, only this time with some hefty budget to allow for more credible cosmetic effects and stuff. There is nothing innovative here, and even the subversive messages - a favorite vehicle for everyone involved in making a zombie movie to sell the work as a meaningful medium with very important social messages - are tired. Yes, yes, commercialism, capitalism, war on terrorism, greed - they all suck, we are all zombies in the shopping mall, whatever. After thousands of horror movies driving home the same tired messages, I'd have thought these guys would have found something new to say by now.
This one is a passable watch should one come across it on late night cable or on the rental shelf one day, but let's face it, it's just George A Romero being given plenty of money to do his thing, and he ends up with something that has been done many times before. How disappointing, really.
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