- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
any have groused about the demise of the major studios’ indie branches (Picturehouse, Paramount Vantage, Warner Independent, etc.), but something strange and wonderful has blossomed in their absence – the major studios have begun to start thinking like indies, at least some of the time. Sony, in particular, has had a great year between the critical success of Sony Pictures Classic’s “Moon” and the massive commercial success of TriStar’s “District 9.” However, they have saved the best for their flagship studio Columbia: “Zombieland” is an instant classic, a road movie that occasionally breaks out into hilariously gory zombie madness. Self-aware without being self-impressed, this is a movie with no use for the dumb, the weak, or the timid, so it doesn’t bother getting them involved. Hell, yes.
The story begins with a nebbish but smart young man (Jesse Eisenberg) who’s trying to stay alive after the human population succumbs to mad-cow disease, turning the infected into angry, flesh-eating zombies. He has a list of rules to literally live by (the fewer you know, the better), but his overly orderly way of surviving hits a wall when he meets up with an impulsive, devil-may-care zombie killing machine (Woody Harrelson), who insists on calling people by the city they’re from as a means of not getting too attached. (Eisenberg is now known as Columbus. Harrelson, Tallahassee.) As Columbus and Tallahassee make their way across the country, they run into a pair of hustlers named Wichita and Little Rock (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, respectively), and together the four try to survive both the zombies and each other.
While the movie is a tad fetishistic with the slo-mo, it produces some eye-popping visuals, and not of the literal variety, thankfully. In fact, while the opening sequence pours on the gore, director Ruben Fleischer knows when to show the goods, and when the violence is better off implied. (Either that, or he had a shot pulled from the supermarket scene. If that is the case, he was done a favor.) He also pulls a neat stunt in framing Columbus’ rules “Panic Room”-style, but as flashy as “Zombieland” gets, the story is the star. It understands the need for characters to be able to take a breath and actually get to know each other in between kicking undead ass.
That story, however, pulls an unbelievably dumb stunt when it comes to the actions of a certain actor and his amusing cameo appearance, forsaking cold logic for an easy laugh for the only time. It is the only major flaw in an otherwise wildly entertaining movie, with a Comeback of the Year-caliber performance by Harrelson at its core. Your move, vampires.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The DVD for "Zombieland" provides interesting extras, but nothing extravagant. There are featurettes on the making of the movie, the production design and visual effects. (Strangely, there is no mention of the movie's awesome cameo role.) There is a chatty audio commentary by director Ruben Fleischer, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and writers Rhett Riese and Paul Wernick. The most pleasant surprise is the inclusion of an episode of the Crackle.com series "Woke Up Dead," starring Jon Heder and Krysten Ritter.