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The Dead Don’t Die is a 2019 film made by the director Jim Jarmusch. Once again, the film is not a hot success by the director, but more like a love letter to George Romero’s films. The movie is built with a talented cast that help support the struggling plot like Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Selena Gomez, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, and the better-known Bill Murray. The film feels like someone that was bored in a class started writing a zombie plot, amazing actors and tried to figure out the events as they went.
The film is set in Centerville, with a population of around 700 citizens. It is your everyday small US town with its dinner and city square. A great example of how calmly the town is could be by the discussion between Ronnie (Adam Driver), and Cliff (Bill Murray) about the question of whether “How late is too late for donuts and coffee?” This shows that nothing much happens in the small town, and even cops have a lot of free time to think about deep questions that don’t even relate to the job.
The Dead Don’t Die doesn’t have a real set protagonist. It focusses on different characters within the town. From the almost retired sheriff Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and his deputies, Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), these characters are the backbone bone of the story. It also has the white supremacy farmer that nobody likes, Miller (Steve Buscemi), the nerdy gas clerk named Bobby (Caleb Landy Jones), and the hardware store owner hank (Danny Glover). Lastly, Centerville’s newest member is a bizarre Scottish mortician, extremely talented wielding a katana (Tilda Swinton). Everyone gets enough screen time to present themselves, but no one gets more than a simple glance.
The film enjoys expressing its talented cast to show the vision, but unfraternally is less dialogue centric and the pace is slower than the usual zombie ghoulish romp. The zombie apocalypse in the movie is caused by “Polar Freaking”, alternating the earth’s orbit and changing the daylight times making the undead to come back. While viewing the movie you might think that the director might like to make subtle references to other movies, but this is not the case. Around the second act, we are introduced to a group of young teens, locals called them “Cleveland hipsters”, that drive by the town in a Pontiac Leman. Mr. Jarmusch does not hesitate to refer to George Romero’s movie Night of The Living Dead, in which they used the same car. There are several more references to other movies, such in one scene where Tilda Swinton askes Adam Drivers car keys and he pulls out a key change of a star destroyer. GET IT! He is an antagonist in those films.
Breaking the fourth wall seems that comes naturally for The Dead Don’t Die, it doesn’t stop and think about it before acting. Within the first 20 minutes, the theme song The Dead Don’t Die by Sturgill Simpsons is constantly playing. Bill Murray character Sheriff Cliff, askes deputy Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver). “Why does that sound so familiar” Sheriff Cliff comments after hearing the song through the radio. Deputy Peterson responds with “Well that because is the theme song.”
Another part where the fourth wall is broken is closer to the end where Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Sheriff Cliff (Bill Murray) are stuck in the patrol car having a conversation. Sheriff Cliff askes Ronnie why does he keep saying the same comment every time “This is all Going to end badly.” Deputy Ronnie response with he knew because he read the script beforehand, so he knew how it was going to end. While Sheriff Cliffs, comments that he only got his scenes from Jim and never a full script. The direct is not afraid to express to his audience that he is being playful with his work.
Jim Jarmusch knows that the audience will love to see character development with Adam Driver and Bill Murray, but this movie is not the case. Having such a great cast for this film is enough to gap the attention of viewers so why try hard in the story and character development? Jim Jarmusch films require a certain type of viewer. If the viewer enjoys his work and his irrelevant jokes, then this movie should be on the viewer’s watch list. On the other hand, if the audience is looking for a great zombie comedy with epicuticular cast and narrative such as Zombieland than this is not the right movie. The Dead Don’t Die it’s just a love letter to George Romero’s film and it is far worse to be compared to his works.
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