On paper, the idea of Jim Jarmusch, the patron saint of downtown indie cool, making a walking-dead movie might raise a few skeptical eyebrows. On screen, though, the director’s deadpan new zom-com The Dead Don’t Die mostly works as a low-stakes, low-key goof that reunites him with some of his (and our) favorite actors while feinting towards a barely-there commentary on mindless consumerism. It’s a film that lazily whistles past the graveyard as it brings that graveyard back to ravenous life.
Granted, the idea that we Americans are all mindless, conspicuously consuming zombies isn’t exactly the freshest metaphorical soil — George A. Romero mined it before (and better and a whole lot bloodier) in 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. But Jarmusch loads his genre-tweaking experiment with so many of his A-list friends that it’s a gas just hanging out in their company.
Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny play cops in the rural burg of Centerville (motto: “A real nice place”) who get overwhelmed when their town’s eccentric population (Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Carol Kane) starts reanimating, hungry for not so much for the usual smorgasbord of brains but rather everyday luxuries like Wi-Fi, coffee, and chardonnay. The plot, such that it is, is so shambling and beside the point that Jarmusch even finds a way to work in Tilda Swinton as a samurai sword-wielding mortician with a Scottish brogue because…well, why the hell not?
For a zombie flick, The Dead Don’t Die isn’t very scary or gory, it’s more of a goof — a lark with a trio of heroes less interested in saving the world than in firing off a few bone-dry one-liners before the apocalypse comes. B–