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The Dead Don't Die
★☆☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

For everyone who felt Jim Jarmusch’s shallow, hipster take on vampires in Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) was spoiled by all the lush art direction, serviceable dialogue, and semblance of intelligence, you can rest assured that the writer/director’s latest dip into a horror genre has none of those pesky qualities. The Dead Don’t Die is Jarmusch’s interpretation on the zombie-comedy—already a tedious subgenre where even the best examples (like Shaun of the Dead and… ah, are there really any other good ones?) are pretty insipid. 

The story centers on three cops living in the fictional small town of Centerville, U.S.A.  Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver), and Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) are all nice folks who usually don’t have much to do beyond settling minor disputes like the one that opens the picture, when Tom Waits’ Hermit Bob is accused of stealing a chicken from Steve Buscemi’s Farmer Miller. But soon a pair of zombies (Iggy Pop and Sara Driver) rises from the dead and starts chompin’ down on the locals at the local diner. Soon the entire town is infested with the undead.

Jarmusch’s thirty-five-year career has followed an uneven trajectory with some high highs and low lows, but this is by far the worst thing he’s ever yawned into existence. No one (except the Coen Brothers) could assemble a cast this terrific and waist them all this badly. Rosie Perez, RZA, and Carol Kane’s roles barely register as cameos. Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, and Selena Gomez get more screen time but do nothing with it. Tilda Swinton manages to not embarrass herself, but a few more movies like this and we might start getting tired of her.

The laidback minimalism that characterizes this filmmaker’s work can cast a transfixing spell when it works—and it’s worked beautifully many times: from Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law in the ‘80s to the more recent The Limits of Control (2009) and Paterson (2016). But here Jarmusch is sending himself up. The Dead Don’t Die is a lame attempt to play his style for laughs with feeble meta-jokes and flat qazi-ironic dialogue. Jarmusch’s style can be incredibly funny when grounded in reality, but this is a “movie-movie” with famous people standing around playing themselves instead of characters and plenty of film references (both to classic pictures and to this one). And when Jarmusch begins to inject a level of social critique into his lazy non-narrative he becomes insultingly hypocritical as well. Frankly, if you take away the all-star cast, you’re left with the very same home movie that hundreds of kids made last year with their friends.

Twitter Capsule:
Jarmusch sends up his signature laidback minimalism in this tedious example of modern cinema's most tedious sub-genre, the zombie comedy. Lazy, insipid, self-conscious, blandly photographed, over-cast, underdeveloped, and unfunny. 

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Produced by Joshua Astrachan and Carter Logan

Written by Jim Jarmusch

With: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Eszter Balint, Danny Glover, Maya Delmont, Taliyah Whitaker, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Kevin McCormick, Sid O'Connell, Caleb Landry Jones, RZA, Larry Fessenden, Rosie Perez, Jodie Markell, Carol Kane, Rosal Colon, Tilda Swinton, Sara Driver, Iggy Pop, Selena Gomez, and Sturgill Simpson

Cinematography: Frederick Elmes
Editing: Affonso Gonçalves

Runtime: 104 min
Release Date: 14 June 2019
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color