of the Dead.
presents a film written and directed by George Romero.
Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R (for pervasive strong
violence and gore, language, brief sexuality and some
drug use). Starring Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Asia
Argento, Robert Joy, Dennis Hopper, Eugene Clark.
of the Dead
not sure if you showed this movie at the White House that
anybody would get it, except when the money burns at the end
- then they might feel a little pang of sadness."
George A. Romero, in the LA
A. Romero's Land of the Dead envisions a world in which
the undead walk an Earth of only the poor. The richest citizens
have holed themselves up in a newly zombie-free Pittsburgh,
in Fiddler's Green, a skyscraper that has been turned into
a sort of country club. Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), a Trump-esque
opportunist in charge of the Green, observes from his office
the poor citizens, living in slums and shanties, protected
only by electric fences and Kaufman's military henchmen.
of these henchmen, an assassin named Cholo (John Leguizamo),
tries to get into the Green but is turned down. He has the
money, but not the status; no one that uncultured, that Hispanic,
could ever be allowed in. Cholo steals a massive tank and
holds the city ransom, threatening to destroy the Green if
he doesn't get what he wants. Another mercenary, Riley (Simon
Baker), is sent by Kaufman to take Cholo down and return the
politics have always informed his films. From the black protagonist
in Night to the consumer culture zombies in Dawn,
he has always been just as concerned with the social and political
satire beneath his horror as with the horror itself. In the
original Dead trilogy, the zombies stood for the problems
facing society, problems made unsolvable due to mankind's
stupidity, greed and cruelty.
by Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), a previous auto mechanic, the
undead in Land are beginning to work together to take
down the fences and get into Pittsburgh. Once this happens,
the humans, disjointed and split, have very little chance.
Here the zombies stand for the world's dispossessed, rising
up against the greedy and the corrupt.
uprising can also be read as an allegory for the Iraqi insurgency.
Romero goes to great lengths to draw comparisons to the war
and its aftermath; captured zombies are submitted to street
carnival humiliations straight out of Abu Ghraib, and Kaufman
and friends can easily be seen as government officials, watching
and exploiting a conflict that they aren't involved in and
Romero's growing sympathy for the undead comes to a head here,
and although he never asks us to forgive their flesh-eating
ways, but he does request our understanding. The film's emotional
base comes not from the human heroes but from the undead,
from Big Daddy screaming in anguish while watching his brethren
being slaughtered to the zombies finally shrugging off the
distraction of the mass media - here taking the form of fireworks
- and going to work. "What right do you have?" Kaufman
cries to Big Daddy when they finally come face to face, and
Big Daddy's wordless response is probably something along
the same lines.
performances are, of course, perfunctory, but they get the
job done. Baker, last seen in The Ring Two, makes for
a compelling hero, and, on the other side, Hopper is perfectly
slimey as Kaufman. The most well-rounded character is Cholo,
and Leguizamo does his best to tone down his typically annoying
tics; this is one of his best controlled and most believable
performances. The supporting cast - from Asia Argento (daughter
of Italian horror director Dario Argento) to Clark - is solid
across the board.
you say, what about the horror? A film can't survive on subtext
alone, and, while rarely scary, Land of the Dead is
never less than suitably gruesome; several deaths - one involving
a misplaced grenade, the other a seemingly decapitated corpse
- are among the most inventive and gratifying I've seen. The
movie's smart - and that's the best reason to see it - but
it's certainly never boring.
2005 Matt Noller, not that anyone would ever want to steal