January 1, 2006 -- “Land of the Dead” is an entertaining installment in the Zombie genre by its master and founder, George Romero. Dennis Hopper of “Speed” stars as Kaufman, the head of a powerful group of wealthy people living in high rise condominiums, surrounded by poverty, electrified fences, soldiers and barricades to hold back the tide of zombies, who have taken over the rest of the world. John Leguizamo of “Assault on Precinct 13” stars as Cholo, a mercenery who works for Hopper to gather supplies on the outside and eliminate dissidents on the inside. When Hopper denies Leguizamo an apartment in the tower, Leguizamo vows vengeance which could destroy the entire city.
Kaufman, desperate to save his own hide, hires Riley (Simon Baker of “Red Planet”) to hunt down Cholo and retrieve the powerful military vehicle he has stolen. The zombies, meanwhile, are on the march, led by a Zombie known as “Big Daddy” (Eugene Clark) who is smarter than most Zombies and may be able to bypass the city's elaborate defenses. All this leads to a huge battle between the zombies and the embattled city dwellers. For once, the zombies might be the good guys in this tale. They have certainly evolved from the mindless creatures they were.
Hopper and his cronies are the equivalent of the current Bush Administration, exemplifying a disconnect with the common people. Hopper is concerned only with his own safety and the comfort of his fellow tower dwellers. Although there is considerable gore, mutilations and dismemberments in the film, this is all done in a darkly comic tone. The film doesn't really take itself seriously. This comic tone takes some of the edge off the gore. The film has one of the best lines of the year, by Hopper, “Zombies, man, they creep me out.” This film rates an affectionate B.
The film also features a cameo appearance by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the writer and director of “Shaun of the Dead,” respectively. They appear in the film as a tribute to Romero, whose films inspired theirs. There is a feature on the DVD of “Land of the Dead” detailing their trip to the set, their meeting with Romero and their preparation to play zombies in one of the film's many darkly comic scenes. Romero's career began with the cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968, followed by “Dawn of the Dead” in 1978 and “Day of the Dead” in 1985, along with a number of other films. Romero's zombie films are not just horror films, but each has a comic element and each film has something to say about society and the time period in which they were filmed.
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