Two Hour Wank
I suppose there’s a time when even the most prestigious independent filmmakers fancy cutting loose and riffing on their favourite lowbrow genre movies. The Dead Don’t Die is such a film. Jim Jarmusch evidently loves the zombie flicks of George Romero; many of us do. But if you have the artistic clout to convince a group of A-List and veteran actors (and Iggy Pop) to participate in what is essentially a self-indulgent one-joke act of prolonged masturbation, in which the audience is invited to delight when it has much better things to do, that doesn’t mean you should.
We don’t begrudge Jarmusch his indulgences, but this is the equivalent, on a feature budget, of inviting a few friends round to make a “movie” on Dad’s camcorder. As it continues, there’s the encroaching feeling that the old man is wasting our time. Not only that, though all concerned had fun making it I’m sure, he’s also wasting the time and talent of people like Bill Murray and Steve Buscemi, who should be using the good years they have left to seek out prestige projects, rather than indulging in this witness genre pastiche.
This is the kind of movie a good filmmaker makes badly to signal their love for meandering b-movies with clunky didactic messaging. If Adam Driver’s character is the only one permitted to read the entire script, it’s because he’s a proxy for Jarmusch . He’s a character that exists to remind the audience that the film is tongue in cheek, the director understands he’s reworking clichés, that if it’s empty and shapeless, with pointless notes on the margin, like Tilda Swinton’s oddball Scotswoman ascending to the stars in a flying saucer, it’s all done with the deepest self-awareness and a deadpan delivery as dry as the earth that’s accrued inside the zombies buried bodies.
It’s up to you whether you want to spend money seeing a good filmmaker make a bad and pointless movie on purpose. But as Jarmusch has elected to make The Dead Don’t Die an aggressively self-aware and consciously meandering bit of schlock with nothing to recommend it other than the talent it wastes, you may want to think twice. Had Jarmusch thought twice, it’s likely he would have chosen to spend his valuable time doing something else. Spoofs can be ridiculous but they also have to have some internal logic, else there distended sketches. Next time Jim, make a trailer and post it on YouTube.