Land of the Dead (2005)

I have a specific type of brain rot where I associate some actors with specific roles and just see them as that character no matter what they’re in. Mr. Joel McHale will always be lovable loser Jeff Winger, no matter how serious his role in Becky tries to be. In this particular case, Land of the Dead features Luigi Mario and King Koopa. They even have a climactic fight amidst a zombie revolution! And the whole movie was just okay.

The film is set sometime after the zombie apocalypse we’ve seen in the other movies; they even use the zed word at least once, although the survivors usually call the walking dead “stenches” which is stupid, but whatever. Bands of mercenaries raid small towns for supplies and bring them back to a walled enclave, segregated by social status–the rich live in a tower, the poor in the streets, and there’s no in-between. The de facto leader is Kaufman (Dennis “Koopa” Hopper), who is a rich asshole. He reminds one of his fanatically loyal goons, Cholo (John “Luigi” Leguizamo), about how he’ll never be one of the elite, which sets the man off to the point that he steals the city’s armored vehicle–named “Dead Reckoning”–that has enough firepower to blow up the entire tower. Bland good guy Riley (Simon Baker) is joined by Charlie (Robert Joy) and Slack (Asia Argento, Dario Argento’s daughter)–who I swear is never actually named–as they’re sent with some nobodies to go get Dead Reckoning back. And while that’s going on, a zombie credited as Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) swears a vendetta on the mercenaries, leading an army of the dead onto the walled city and decimating it. Remember, Dawn of the Dead had zombies hanging around the mall because they had fragments of memories from when they were alive, and Day of the Dead had Bub display some form of intelligence to the point that he was capable of learning and sought revenge. Once Riley gets Dead Reckoning back, he has to go save as many people as he can because the script requires him to. Luigi get bit and turns into a zombie for his climactic fight with King Koopa, with the two of them getting blown up by Big Daddy. Some civilians are saved, Riley lets Big Daddy and his zombie horde shamble off, and the characters who survived drive off to peace and quiet in Canada.

I don’t have a problem with a protagonist being a good guy in a world of callous disregard and corruption, but Riley’s character had no subtlety. He meets Slack when she’s thrown into a pit fight with two zombies. While everyone else is betting on which zombie will eat her first, Riley is THE ONLY ONE who sees something wrong with this, saves her, and starts a firefight that ends up killing Phil Fondacaro–look him up, you’ve definitely seen this little person before–that gets our hero arrested, which leads to Koopa Kaufman springing him to do one last job. So, of the background characters, who are we supposed to like? The rich are assholes, and it sure seems like the movie wants us to think a lot of the poor are callous degenerates. Makes it all the easier for him to turn his back on whatever society is left, I guess.

There’s also a cameo of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as zombies. Turns out George A Romero was a fan of Shaun of the Dead and wanted to include them in this. I totally didn’t recognize them, but that’s great for them. They can say they’ve been in a really good zombie movie! And also Land of the Dead.

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