Land of the Dead movie review, George A. Romero, Simon Baker, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, John Leguizamo. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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"Land of the Dead"
2 stars
92 minutes | Rated: R
Friday: Friday, June 24, 2005
Written & directed by George A. Romero

Starring Simon Baker, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, John Leguizamo, Robert Joy, Pedro Miguel Arce, Krista Bridges, Phil Fondacaro, Max McCabe, Alan Van Sprang, Sasha Roiz, Christopher Russell, Jason Gautreau, Jonathan Walker

  • Zombies!
  • Simon Baker
  • Asia Argento
  • Dennis Hopper
  • John Leguizamo

  •  LINKS for this film
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    Romero's lackluster return to the zombie genre fails to exploit creative concept of evolving undead

    By Rob Blackwelder

    More empty and lifeless than the zombies that overrun its banal B-movie post-apocalypse, "Land of the Dead" may be the return of George A. Romero to the genre he created, but there's little to distinguish this film from the countless gory imitators the writer-director's work has spawned.

    The fourth picture in Romero's "Dead" series, it takes place in a decimated world where a handful of rich elitists live in a self-contained, weakly defended luxury skyscraper and a lower class of humanity scrapes by in the streets behind protective walls and electric fences. But unbeknownst to all of them, the zombies in the wasteland outside have begun to think and organize.

    This sounds like a fantastic -- and wholly original -- concept that could take the genre to a scarier new level. But "Land of the Dead" fails to exploit the refreshing plot point any further than is necessary to bring the undead through the city's pathetic ramparts, led by the moaning-groaning influence of a single zombie who has developed a primitive ability to reason.

    The movie has nothing new to offer, although it is made a tad more watchable by something old -- Romero's simple, straightforward cinematography that makes all the action (especially the mediocre scares) much clearer and eerily more immediate than the shake-shake, chop-chop style applied to most modern horror flicks. Its other great asset is the body-decay makeup on the legions of walking corpses and the dead stares and lumbering gaits of some of the key zombie actors.

    But these pluses don't count for much when the human performances have less charisma than those lead zombies. Bland Simon Baker from "The Ring Two" plays the hero, a vanilla altruist determined to save the city, and even good actors like John Leguizamo (as a black marketeer) and Dennis Hopper (as the greedy self-anointed kingpin of the skyscraper snobs) are hamstringed in flat, hackneyed roles of little interest.

    The biggest problem with "Land of the Dead" may be that Romero didn't put much thought into creating the world in which it takes place, which allows for many obvious questions to arise. What's happened to the government and why is there no organized effort to rid the world of zombies? After all these years, why aren't the human enclaves at least better equipped to fight them off?

    Many critics and fans who know Romero's penchant for social metaphor will give the film too much credit, reading into it political and class-struggle allusions. But there are no themes here that can't be found in any badly acted low-budget dystopic-future action movie.

    The best thing I can say about "Land of the Dead" is that it's not aggressively stupid like the "Resident Evil" movies, which represent the genre's big-budget bottom of the barrel. But for a modern zombie flick with real entertainment value, this picture doesn't hold a candle to two from last year: the "Dawn of the Dead" remake and "Shaun of the Dead," an ingenious spoof with real scares. And for a butt-kicking zombie movie with socio-political undercurrents, it pales in comparison to 2003's "28 Days Later."

    The most noteworthy part of this film was the use of Universal Pictures' 1930s logo in the opening credits for no apparent reason.

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