THE DEAD DON'T DIE movie poster | ©2019 Focus Features

THE DEAD DON’T DIE movie poster | ©2019 Focus Features

Rating: R
Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Caleb Landry Jones
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: June 14, 2019

If you are familiar with the works filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, describing THE DEAD DON’T DIE as a Jim Jarmusch movie with zombies should tell you pretty much all you need to know about it. If you’re not familiar with Jarmusch’s oeuvre, perhaps the best way to attempt to convey the experience by noting this is a review, written by someone who’s aware that it’s a review, of a movie that’s aware it’s a movie. Repeating this observation a few times in different voices would add verisimilitude. This is not true of all of Jarmusch’s creations, but it describes some of them, including THE DEAD DON’T DIE. (Whether or not you’re familiar with Jarmusch’s films, if you’re somehow unacquainted with zombie moves, this is probably not the best place to start.)

In any case, we are in Centerville, a small, ordinary town at a time when the polar ice caps have been fracked, which is knocking the Earth off its axis. In addition to a ring around the moon and some freaky time and electrical issues, the dead start digging their way out of their graves.

The three principal upholders of Centerville law react in different ways. Sheriff Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), a mildly melancholy type, is worried but not incredulous. Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) is pessimistic and philosophical. Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) gets progressively more freaked out. Others caught up in the goings-on are angry racist farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi), small business owner Hank Thompson (Danny Glover), comic book and horror movie aficionado Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones), tough Hermit Bob (Tom Waits), and Centerville newcomer Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), a mortician with a thing for swords. Others notables making appearances include Rosie Perez, indie filmmaker Larry Fessenden, RZA, Carol Kane, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez.

Murray and Driver achieve a droll deadpan comic back-and-forth that will be appreciated by fans of both performers, and Swinton is fairly glorious as her fish-out-of-water character.

The central question here seems to be, what if the end of the world was treated as a mundane problem until the situation becomes an immediate emergency? THE DEAD DON’T DIE pretty much straddles being what it is and parodying what it is, which means that much of the humor relies on self-reference and the aforementioned normalcy, presented here as inherently whimsical.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE is clearly exactly the movie that it set out to be. This is no small achievement; plenty of movies cannot say the same. There are those who will find it hilarious, and no one (at least, not this reviewer) is arguing that they should not. If one is not inherently amused by this sensibility, though, while the film has its moments, THE DEAD DON’T DIE can start to feel like it’s moving at the pace of one of its shambling title characters.

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