Movie Reviews 130 – Land of the Dead (2005)

Land of the DeadLand of the Dead was George Romero’s fourth Living Dead movie in the series after a 20 year hiatus following Day of the Dead. While DofD showed a pretty barren world nearly overrun by zombies and devoid of humans except for the odd handful here and there, Land of the Dead gives us an entire city of ramshackle survivors and featuring Fiddler’s Green, a private luxurious downtown highrise where the privileged inhabitants are nearly oblivious to the goings on outside.

The catch is that the resources keeping Fiddler’s Green afloat and keeping these rich folk nice and cozy comes at the hands of the poverty stricken refugees lingerings in the outskirts of the building. The goods are acquired by scavenging crews that go out in the zombie infested countryside to see what can be salvaged from the remnants of houses and commercial enterprises. They go out to feed and shelter the down and out living around the city, but selling the best of what they can recoup to the Fiddler’s Green head honcho, Mr. Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) and his acolytes.

One of those grubby scavengers pandering to Kaufman is Cholo (John Leguizamo). Eager to please, he not only delivers necessities but also the occasional fine champagne and cigars. He figures that with the money Kaufman owes him for a few years of service he’s ready to buy himself his own spot in the building. He’s actually part of a whole crew of Dead Reckoning, the name given to a Zombieproof hell on wheels. A souped up and fortified assault vehicle fully equipped with guns, radar, fireworks (I’ll explain that in a sec)  and even missile launchers. The crew is run by Riley (Simon Baker or as I know him, The Mentalist guy) who isn’t so enamored by the Fiddler’s Green folk and just wants to feed and protect the miserly people.

The twist in this movie is that the zombies are starting to act a bit differently. Right out of the gates in the first scene in which the Dead Reckoning crew hit a few houses, they are confronted by one particular zombie, a former gas pump attendant, who doesn’t quite follow the mindless mindset. This particular zombie can put two and two together and make some sound decisions. This is not good for anybody but especially the humans who rely on the fireworks to keep the zombies distracted whenever they need cover for Dead Reckoning forays. Fireworks seem to distract the zombies for a few minutes at least. But this one Zombie ignores the fireworks and before long other zombies follow his example. Could the zombies be developing intelligence?

When Cholo learns that ‘his kind’ are not welcome in Fiddlers Green and never will be no matter what, he leads a renegade group to commandeer Dead Reckoning and threatens to blow up the building lest his demands are met. Why Riley is no fan of Kaufman and the rest of the elite holed up there, he knows that losing Dead Reckoning is too important to everyone else, so he and his loyal crew have to stop Cholo.

Now there are plot holes aplenty in this film, the silliest being the use of money as something of actual value in world gone to hell. Even worse is making demands for huge sums of it. And I’m sure that a lot of people will take offense at the notion of zombies acquiring intellect. But the movie is not total garbage as there is a decent amount of action and while silly, its is somewhat interesting to watch zombies with a sparkle of a few working brain cells. We also have the introduction of a new recruit to the Dead Reckoning crew in the form of Slack (Asia Argento) who captures Riley’s eye. Watch out for cameos roles for Simon Pegg and his “Shaun of the Dead” co-writer and director Edgar Wright and FX makeup guru Greg Nicotero.

Not quite worth a 20 year wait, but its Romero zombies so I’ll take it.

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