REVIEW: The Dead Don’t Die

The deadpan don’t die.

A cosmic realignment leads to the reanimation of corpses in the once quaint and seemingly normal town of Centreville.

The new black comedy from notoriously weird filmmaker, Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die is this year’s dry, deadpan Arthouse comedy flick that has a lot to like but only for very, very, very niche audiences.

For the record, I really like Jarmusch. The guy is very funny, very dark, very deep, very aesthetically pleasing and I, for the most half, enjoy his obscure cinematic odysseys into the self. Paterson was one of the best films I have ever reviewed back in 2016 and I inherently enjoy other features like Coffee and Cigarettes and Only Lovers Left Alive (still yet to see Broken Flowers…). So I am accustomed to Jarmusch’s off-kilter, somewhat unnatural approach to cinema; his films are more poetry than they are narrative. Yet, with The Dead Don’t Die, I just cannot sit here and say I really enjoyed the film.

Again, I believe there to be an audience out there for The Dead Don’t Die. The movie plays with niche horror and comedy elements. The best part I found about this film and the only reason I did not completely give up on it was the cast. I love Billy Murray as his flat, cold delivery of every line was incredibly humorous. His chemistry with Adam Driver was kind of remarkable as I sat and wished throughout the film’s runtime that the two had been paired up for a better film with a better script.

Alone though, Driver was probably my favourite part of the film. That dude is like a chameleon, being able to embody every single role he is gifted. He was genuinely hilarious in The Dead Don’t Die and *resurrected* the movie every time it flatlined. Also brilliant was Tilda Swinton who, as per usual, was just a complete enigma… how she manages to look so elegant and speak so creepy but act so comically just completely boggles my mind. Honestly she was just incredible in The Dead Don’t Die and, along with Murray and Driver, kept this film afloat for long enough.

Just for a speed round too; Steve Buscemi was fantastic in this film; I loved the minor appearance of Iggy Pop; Tom Waits had his moments; and I quite liked the performances of both Caleb Landry Jones and Danny Glover. The rest were kind of forgettable. And to be honest, I do not think it was really the acting that let anyone down in this movie but instead more the script.

The screenplay felt kind of bland and repetitive. It’s as if the film was in need of geniuses like Murray, Driver, Swinton and Buscemi to make the material seem watchable. Sure Selena Gomez and Austin Butler were okay, but nothing was going to save their blandness when the script just did not give them anything to really work off of.

Being an Arthouse film, evidently, I was not expecting the film to follow familiar trappings of character arcs and such, but I was at least hoping there would be something fulfilling behind the townsfolk and the world Jarmusch had built in this film. Nothing really jumped out as interesting or different or impressive. Characters were introduced and killed off in the next scene almost immediately. And yeah, there is a charm to the subversion of expectations, but the subversion on show in The Dead Don’t Die just was not that intriguing to garner real attention.

(Frederick Elmes/ Focus Features 2019)

By the time the film decided it wanted to be smart and self-referential, it just felt too late. I am sure if I hadn’t sat through the, dare I say it, boring first few acts of the movie, the ending would have been the highlight. In the closing fifteen to twenty minutes of the film, characters spoke on such meta levels as real strange sh*t started happening all across the board for which I would have been so ready for… earlier. The end just came so late after a mountain of tiring excess that I purely just could not care about it anymore.

To be fair, the film certainly had its moments but they were all short-lived. I really do like Jarmusch but nothing here really sold itself to me. Plain and simple, I just found it kind of boring.

I respect everyone involved and thank them for trying something outside of the Hollywood machine, but the project just did not land for me. The tone was a bit scattered between comedy and drama and the plot just felt like it was going nowhere.

With a filmmaker like this and a cast like that, I reckon there could have been something really special, but instead we just got a potential cult classic zombie film that may or may not be revisited in the future as a shlocky, arty masterpiece.

Jim, buddy, I thought you were better suited to vampires.

The Dead Don’t Die, sadly, belongs in the… KINGDOM OF THE CRIMINALLY DULL…


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