Wednesday, May 29, 2019


I had to try my best to remove my own personal attachment to Jim Jarmusch’s early filmography in order to write this. Keyword; try. Yes I’m one of those “keep it real” fans that enjoys the Permanent Vacation through Mystery Train era of Jim Jarmusch’s career more than his recent efforts like The Limits Of Control or Only Lovers Left Alive (I really really enjoyed Paterson tho...).
But I’m more than capable of recognizing a pretty enjoyable movie from a great filmmaker even if it isn’t something I consider to be a timeless classic like Down By Law or Mystery Train. I think a big problem with film criticism these days is that if something isn’t immediately amazing or considered a “classic” by the social media masses, it’s disposable and/or dismissed. But that’s the result of living in an insta click-based world (something Jarmusch himself kind of criticizes in The Dead Don’t Die). I’ve said it before on recent reviews and I’ll say it again; it’s ok for a movie to just be good or just enjoyable. Everything can’t be great. And at the same time, everything can’t suck. We (...I) can’t expect Jim Jarmusch to keep making or go back to Stranger Than Paradise. He’s made his classics. His legacy is cemented in film history at this point. Why shouldn’t he be playful and try out new genres and whatnot? Jarmusch has dipped his toes in to the waters of the horror genre before but this is his first horror/comedy which is kind of a different animal. The Dead Don’t Die has its share of gore & creepy ambiance, but it’s also funny & quirky in parts. This movie - which is definitely more in line with his recent work - is fun. But it’s also cool for the sake of being cool (something Jarmusch has fallen victim to for the last 10+ years or so with the exception of Paterson, which, in my opinion, is the most genuine thing he’s done since Ghost Dog). But cool is still cool. It’s all about perspective. Some people like cool and The Dead Don't Die is certainly that. It’s also fun. But we should all be expecting that given the trailer, cast & premise. It’s a Zombie horror/comedy that stars/features Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, The Rza, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Danny Glover and MORE (the combination of Zombies & Bill Murray will probably have some of you thinking of Zombieland which shares some of the same tone as The Dead Don't Die). It’s almost like Jim Jarmusch stacked the cast so much that literally every base would be covered and almost every demographic of movie-goer is represented to the point where everyone is pleased. He essentially did the Wes Anderson/Twin Peaks: Season Three/Golden State Warriors thing by assembling an all-star supergroup which couldn’t fail.
Let’s be honest - the minute the first promotional photos of Bill Murray, Adam Driver & Chloe Sevigny holding giant Zombie-killing machetes hit the internet, folks already made up their minds that they were going to love this (after having seen this I can confirm that those early photos absolutely capture the tone of this movie and Adam Driver gets a lot of use of said machete).

I try to be less cynical the older I get. I guess it’s better that folks are excited rather than hateful towards something before they even see it. I just hope people’s excitement & enjoyment for The Dead Don’t Die are genuine and not forced simply because of all the names attached to this project.
I mean, not only is there a George Romero/Pittsburgh name-drop, but the opening of The Dead Don’t Die is right out of The Night Of The Living Dead. So there is an appreciation for Zombie movies...

The Night Of  The Living Dead / The Dead Don't Die

There’s certainly some heavy-handed commentary about Zombies representing us humans that are slaves to our devices and how the world is fucked because Donald Trump is president (Steve Buschemi plays a prickly trump-supporting farmer who wears a red hat that says “make America white again”). The whole Zombie outbreak in the film is essentially brought on by too much fracking which in turn alters the chemistry of the planet.
So be prepared for all the politically-charged pieces on The Dead Don’t Die once more people see it (I also wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to write a think-piece on how Chloe Sevigny’s wasted character in the movie doubles as commentary on how women are often viewed as expendable secondary characters).
At the end of the day, The Dead Don’t Die is arthouse fast food. It’s “good” (tasty) every once in a while (depending on how healthy you like to eat) but not good for you all the time. Jim Jarmusch is still capable of greatness (he got close with Paterson) but in the meantime, enjoy Jim Jarmusch’s cinematic Big Mac in the form of The Dead Don’t Die
Folks might enjoy the family reunion element in that this movie features actors from every era of Jim Jarmusch’s career. You have the day one folks (Sara Driver & Eszter Balint), the golden era crew (Tom Waits & Steve Buscemi) and the new regulars (Bill Murray, RZA, Tilda Swinton & Adam Driver).
But it’s best to go in to this with no expectations (I’m warning you all now that while this movie is pretty good overall, it’s far from perfect and starts to coast on its coolness & charm towards the end).

Now...the minute I see hot takes calling The Dead Don’t Die one of Jarmusch’s best or the best anything for that matter, then we may have a problem and I’ll have to call someone out. I don’t have a problem with anyone liking this. But speak for yourself and not the rest of the world. I’m sure there’s some 21 year old “critic” out there on social media getting paid $50 by Vice or IndieWire to write hyperbolic statements about how this is the greatest zombie movie ever and that it should be studied in film schools in order to get clicks & traffic. Avoid those kinds of reviews on The Dead Don’t Die at all costs. As much as I enjoyed this movie overall (as did the audience I saw it with), I’m sorry to say that the final act is kind of phoned it. Once you see it you’ll get what I mean.
But nevertheless this is still worth a second viewing and you might like the unexpected self-awareness that comes along with it.


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