Director Jim Jarmusch (“Paterson”) is in his 60s with a storied cinematic résumé, but “The Dead Don’t Die” feels more like the work of an ambitious teen with a camera and a bunch of charismatic friends.
It’s a fair amount of fun but appears to have been made with minimal effort. For those already ensconced in the cult of Jarmusch, that’ll be enough. Anyone else should probably proceed with caution.
This zombie comedy doesn’t lack for star power, and its cast is largely composed of terrific Jarmusch regulars. Bill Murray and Adam Driver are laconic cops in a tiny Pennsylvania town named Centerville — “A Real Nice Place,” its sign claims — where the physical world is gradually going haywire. Smartphones short out, pets go missing and the sun seems to be refusing to set.
Tom Waits comes shuffling along in silver dreadlocks as the town hermit, Steve Buscemi pops up as a widely loathed farmer whose red baseball cap reads “Keep America White Again.” Tilda Swinton steals the show (but then, when doesn’t she?) as the town’s new coroner, a mysterious and mellow Scot with samurai skills. Selena Gomez, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, RZA and Chloë Sevigny are also in the mix.
Soon enough, per the title (and a country song of the same name, winkingly in heavy rotation on the radio), the dead are clawing their way out of graves and chowing down on the locals. One of the first to rise is a moldering Iggy Pop, stylish in a leather vest even in undeath. The inimitable Carol Kane has a nice bit as a ghoul with a yen for chardonnay.
And so it goes, Jarmusch’s lens wandering around town, capturing vignettes of small-town zombie mayhem, with frequent nods to forebears in the genre (Jones’ character actually sports a “Night of the Living Dead” pin, in one of the very lowest-effort shout-outs.)
But Jarmusch also uses the shambling chaos as a metaphor for fears about climate change, with mentions from a newscaster (Rosie Perez) of the adverse effects of “polar fracking” on the world at large.
Click Here: cheap kanken backpack
Jarmusch has appointed Driver’s police officer, Ronnie, as a sort of meta narrator who makes occasional references to the theme song and the script as he and Murray fight their way through the monster hordes. Driver does deadpan like nobody else (his reaction to a “Star Wars” reference is one of the film’s small delights), but most of his actual dialogue, like everyone else’s, is only so-so. I imagine it’s tough to get an auteur to bring in someone else to punch up his screenplay.
That’s too bad, because even with a cast this lovable, “The Dead Don’t Die” falls short of the killer zom-com it could have been.