Land of the Dead
land of the dead | night of the living dead | george a. romero | john leguizamo | asia argento | simon baker | sequel | zombies | zombie | dennis hopper | thriller | canada | france | united states | tom savini | post-apocalyptic | robert joy | greg nictero
Film: Land of the Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: John Leguizamo, Asia Argento and Simon Baker
This film was one that made me excited when I heard it was coming to theaters. This would have been my senior year of high school. My father introduce me and my sister to the trilogy at the time and this would be the first one that came to theaters in my life. We went to see this as a family and I really liked it. I’ve seen it quite a few times throughout the years on top of that. The synopsis here is the living dead have taken over the world and the last humans live in a walled city to protect themselves as they come to grips with the situation.
We begin with filling in the history of what has happened to the world. We know thatit has been overrun with zombies. We then learn that people have created safe places to live. This film revolves around Pittsburgh that is now known by the high-rise where all of the rich live, called Fiddler’s Green.
It then shifts to the leader of a unit that goes out to collect supplies and bring it back to the city. His name is Riley Denbo (Simon Baker). He is joined by his friend of Charlie (Robert Joy). Later we will learn that Charlie was burned in a fire and half of his face shows the results of it. Riley did save him and he now feels he owes his life to him. He is a crack shot though so it works out.
This unit is scouting a town for supplies. They see zombies, but one of them draws Riley’s attention. He is a former gas station attendant going by the name of Big Daddy (Eugene Clark). Some zombies step on the bell that announces a car is there. He comes out to gas it up, but finds there is nothing there. It seems he knows he is being watched and looks in the direction of Riley. He moans and zombies turn in that direction and head toward them. Riley believes they are thinking and communicating.
Baker’s second in command is Cholo DeMora (John Leguizamo). He is dumping trash and we notice that there are bodies in it. He does the dirty work for the big boss of Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) and is trying to buy his way into Fiddler’s Green.
This group goes about raiding this town of supplies. They have a giant truck by the name of Dead Reckoning. It is equipped with armor, machine guns, missiles and even has a launcher to send up fireworks. These are used to distract the zombies. Riley and his crew go about collecting supplies. There’s a new guy in the team that goes with Cholo and his crew. They go to get booze and it results in the new guy getting bit. This is supposed to be Riley’s last run and he didn’t want anyone to die. This upsets him and causes everyone to head back in.
Cholo thinks it is his last run too. He thinks he has enough to buy his way into Fiddler’s Green. He learns though that Kaufman won’t allow it. He tries to politely reject Cholo who doesn’t take it well. He goes about stealing Dead Reckoning and holding Kaufman along with Fiddler’s Green hostage until he gets the ransom he demands.
During this, Riley goes to check on the car he bought and sees it is gone. Through interactions he goes to a local bar looking for Chihuahua (Phil Fondacaro), the guy running this place. He relays that he didn’t do anything to his car, but that someone above him. This also leads Riley to seeing that the game for that night puts Slack (Asia Argento) in danger. She is saved and Chihuahua is killed. They’re arrested.
Their way out involves helping Kaufman, trying to stop Cholo and getting Dead Reckoning back. Riley sees his way out and it appears that helping the big boss is the way to do that.
Now that’s where I’m going to leave my recap of this movie. Where I want to start is that George A. Romero is probably my favorite director of all time. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie and I mean Day of the Dead is right there in my top 5 as well. What is really impactful from his series is how well he constructs the stories where you can enjoy what he is doing, while also reading subtext underneath it. I think this one is probably the most in your face with it of the 4, but I still think this is a worthy film with the other 3.
We really are looking at a capitalist society and what is going on in the United States at the time of writing this really fits with the commentary here. Kaufman along with his group is the ruling class. They have all of the money and power while we have the slums below. The character of Mulligan (Bruce McFee) is interesting because he is trying to rally the people since they outnumber the rich. The people are placated due to vices, much like we see today. Too many people are comfortable and don’t want to get their hands dirty. It then becomes interesting here though is the zombies that attack the city.
From the beginning, Romero has introduced that zombies are primitive, but can learn. It is brought up in Dawn and Day. The next logical step we have here. Big Daddy pushes them forward. It is interesting with them attacking Fiddler’s Green, the revolution that Mulligan wants happens when the zombies attack. On top of that, anyone who dies joins them as well. It isn’t necessarily his vision, but it works.
The last little bit here I wanted to delve into would be Cholo. He’s mad because he was spurned, which makes sense. What confuses me though is that his mindset is stuck in the old world. He wants Kaufman to pay him a monetary ransom. That won’t help him outside of Fiddler’s Green. I think this is really showing that he is blinded by rage and not thinking that it only has value if someone believes it does. Destroying Fiddler’s Green makes it worthless.
Moving away from the story and the commentary, I’ll go next to the acting. I’ll be honest, I don’t really care for Baker as our lead here. He is stoic which is fine. There’s just something about him and I think it is that there’s some really good performances around him that he gets lost. Leguizamo is one of them. I think he does a solid job as Cholo. You can feel his rage for sure. Hopper is good as the true villain of this movie. I liked Argento’s performance. I think Joy is also solid. Clark as Big Daddy is good, but I don’t necessarily think he’s great either. The rest of the cast does really round this out for what was needed with cameos by Fondacaro, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Greg Nicotero and even Tom Savini as zombies.
Really the last thing that I wanted to delve into is what really can be hit or miss for me are the effects. I think that the look of the zombies is really good. The ending sequence of mayhem for the climax I think works really well with what is done practical. I’m not surprised to see KNB’s name in the credits. Nicotero is from the school of Savini and of course being the N in KNB. What I really have an issue with is the CGI. They relay on it a lot and most of it didn’t hold up for me. It is a shame, but I get why it is used. Romero was given a big budget and worked with Universal. I’m just not the biggest fan.
In conclusion here, this is the weakest of the best 4 in the Dead series from Romero. I still think that this one has a good social commentary and it creates a world that sucks me in. I think that the acting is pretty solid across the board. The practical effects are on point, the cinematography is well done and the soundtrack fits for what was needed. If they didn’t go with as much CGI as they did, I think this would have worked better for me. For me, this is a good movie. I don’t think that it will ever go higher than that, but I still enjoy this for what it is. I’d still recommend it to fans of this series or if you enjoy zombie movies as it still one of the better ones in my opinion.
My Rating: 8 out of 10