I know that there are some reviewers who relish the ability to rip into a film that they didn’t like. They may feel that the monopolisation of their time was a waste, that the filmmaker insulted them for making them sit through two hours of tedium, and as such, they wish to tear that filmmaker down completely. I personally don’t enjoy writing a negative review, and I certainly frown upon the glee that many reviewers get from slamming something that they would likely not have the talent or skill to create.
With that in mind, I have a review written in my mind for Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die that burns it to the ground. But, I’m not going to write that review. No, I’m going to attempt to take the higher ground and attempt to respectfully look down on this film.
Indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has long worked in the realm of the odd, and over the decades, he’s crafted a style of comedy that is best described as drought laden deadpan. In fact, his comedy is so dry, and so deadpan, that it makes perfect sense that the zombies in this climate-change conscious comedy-horror fare turn to dust when they’re slaughtered.
The plot is as simple as a this: a small town in nowhere America finds themselves at the centre of a zombie outbreak after the planet is thrown off its axis due to mining in the Arctic and Antarctica. Jarmusch uses this as a chance to make some kind of vague, hand waving comment on climate change, but it’s a very non-committal comment.
It’s clear Jarmusch is more interested in spending time with his routine actor friends, given the cast is made up of Jarmusch regulars – Bill Murray, Tom Waits, RZA, Iggy Pop, Tilda Swinton –, and a few occasional repeat offenders – Adam Driver, Steve Buscemi -, while a few other actors get to boost their indie cred by appearing here – Caleb Landry Jones and Selena Gomez. As with many other Jarmusch ensemble events, The Dead Don’t Die is more about a group of actor friends putting on a theme-driven vaudeville show. The only trouble is that it’s not very entertaining, and it’s not very interesting, and there’s really not much worthwhile to say here.
I have long felt that I’d watch Adam Driver in anything, but this film makes me question that. Alongside Tilda Swinton, they are the only things worthwhile in this sleep-driven affair. There is a vague attempt at making a meta-comedy, like when Adam Driver’s police officer mentions that the song on the radio – Sturgill Simpson’s “The Dead Don’t Die” – is the theme song to the film, but it all amounts to nothing.
Jarmusch diehards will lap this up, but for everyone else, you’ll struggle to find anything worthwhile over its runtime. There is certainly a lot more negative things I could say about this film, but you know what? It’s not worth the energy, space, or time. And maybe that’s the worst thing you could say about The Dead Don’t Die: it’s so inept and boring that it’s not even worth the time spent critically analysing it.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton
Writer: Jim Jarmusch