Jim Jarmusch’s thirteenth feature film is a zombie film, but it is far from being brainless, but its also not that fun or as clever as it thinks it is. It holds ideas, however the ideas aren’t that sophisticated either. The film aims to be subversive as it holds ideas about global warming, climate change, fracking, and other forms of political subtext where the end result is a film that is lazy, tedious, and rather irritating.
Jarmush is known for his deadpan indies that merge comedy with drama, and Jarmush has also embarked on genres filmmaking in the past as well with the western (Dead Man) and the vampire film (Only Lovers Left Alive), and this time around Jarmusch takes on the zombie genre.
While the zombie genre now feels over-saturated where it has now almost ran its course, Jarmusch’s spin puts some uniqueness to the genre, even though it doesn’t succeed on all levels that it is aiming for. The movie points fun at middle-America in the small town of Centerville. It’s a small town that doesn’t have Starbucks, nobody reads the New Yorker or the New York Times, and characters are seen wearing MAGA hats that read “Make America White Again”. Centerville could have been just called Hicksville, and Jarmusch whips up doom and gloom for its characters who are ignorant or rather indifferent to “global warming” while repeating his hipster and snobbish attitude that was found in “Only Lover’s Alive”, a film I enjoyed much more than this, but let’s face it the film held a rather snobbish attitude.
The MAWA cap just goes to show how lazy and unfunny Jarmusch’s humor has become. Recently off the 2016 masterpiece “Patterson”, which was Jarmusch finest film since “Dead Man”, showed a filmmaker maturing and growing with humility and grace. Ultimately “The Dead Don’t Die” brings out the worst sensibilities, smugness, and habits Jarmusch holds.
Fans of the zombie genre will more than likely be disappointed since he fails to deliver the thrills or scares. The zombies are jokes, just as their kills, and while it is funny to see Iggy Pop as a zombie the film grows old very quickly. As well as the obvious odes and jokes that felt more like a filmmaker who just graduated from film school than a 30 year filmmaking veteran.
Jarmush hasn’t necessarily been the most political filmmaker, but rather he’s always been more about making movies in what is trendy at the time. However the film feels like the jokes and subject matter come a decade too late. Take for instance Steve Buscemi’s character Miller, a conservative right-winger who wears a red MAWA hat who names is dog Rumsfeld just goes to show how lame, dated, and unfunny Jarmush’s humor has become.
It’s not to say “The Dead Don’t Die” is a complete failure, Adam Driver and Billy Murray are indeed a brilliant deadpan duo, and Tilda Swinton amps up her otherwordly personality as a samurai mortician that places glam-rock makeup on dead corpses, The Rza is a UPS worker that has logos that read WU-PS and Samuel Fuller has his own grave. The film does suffer from too many characters and subplots, where you feel many are just wasted, like Selena Gomez as a teenager who passes through Centerville in her 1967 Pontiac Lemans, where the characters point out its the same car that was used in George A. Romero’s “The Night of the Living Dead.
Yes even the references are lazy and obvious, just as the ideas and political themes where Jarmsuch is saying the earth is facing man-made capitalist destruction in an unprecedented rate, where we are told by the media and our leaders that we only have 12 years to change course before it ends in disaster where the ideas beats the audience over the head over and over again. “The Dead Don’t Die” becomes a tedious exercise of tongue-in-cheek irony of painful fourth-wall breaking that never reaches great laughter or suspense, which was certainly needed in a movie of this kin. This is perhaps the most disappointing film of Jarmusch’s career and certainly a minor work.