Writer & director Zack Snyder is no stranger to zombie zagas. He made his cinematic directorial debut in 2004 with his inspired remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 classic “Dawn of the Dead,” starring Ving Rhames, Sarah Polley, and Jake Weber. Afterward, he staged his suspenseful Spartan saga “300” (2006) with Gerard Butler, and then his magnum opus “Watchmen” (2009), with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman, and Patrick Wilson.

Snyder followed up this seminal classic with his bizarre, animated adventure “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” (2010), not exactly kid stuff, before he ventured farther out on a limb with a sinister shoot’em up “Sucker Punch” (2011), featuring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Of course, Snyder reinvented the immortal DC Comics’ characters Superman and Batman in “Man of Steel” (2013), toplining Henry Cavill as the eponymous hero, and then in his notorious “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), launching Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader, with Henry Cavill reprising his Superman role.

After private tragedies forced him to withdraw from “Justice League” (2017), Marvel guru Joss Whedon finished it. Later this summer after its debut on HBO/MAX, “Zack Snyder’s extended cut of Justice League” (2021) will appear on home video. Seventy-one percent of Rotten Tomatoes critics have given it positive reviews, while ninety-four percent of audiences have loved it.

Coming full circle, Snyder has returned to his roots with Netflix’s “Army of the Dead,” starring David Bautista. Formulaic from start to finish, this two-hour & twenty-minute zombie melodrama/ heist film is sure to assuage the cravings of bloodthirsty zombie fans. Basically, “Army of the Dead” is zombie porn about the undead munch-athon.

Not surprisingly, bare-breasted zombie strippers feast on an ill-fated tourist, but thereafter Snyder doesn’t keeps everybody covered up. Tough guy David Bautista assembles a team of reckless souls and plunges them into the no-man’s land of Las Vegas after it has become a hot zone to retrieve $200 million from a casino bank vault.

“Army of the Dead” gets off to a sturdy start as Snyder and scribes Shay Hatten and Jay Harold explain why ghouls galore overrun Sin City. Like toxic disposal movies where a barrel of chemical waste tumbles off a truck, sinks into a river, and spreads its contaminants both up and down stream, “Army” opens with a heavily armed military convoy escorting a ‘top-secret’ cargo. Ecstatic newlyweds having sex in their front seat crash into the flatbed military cargo truck.

The impact knocks a huge locker onto the highway. Told too late to destroy it, the soldiers watch a muscular zombie smash his way out of said locker. Although they empty their automatic weapons into this resilient zombie, the fiend survives and rips them apart. Conveniently, the town nearest the outbreak is Las Vegas!

Not only does the alpha zombie who broke out without a scratch forge his own army from scratch, but he also leads his undead minions into an unsuspecting Vegas for the ultimate flesh & blood buffet. The opening twenty minutes quickly establishes the premise of zombified Vegas.

Miraculously, the military stacks up a towering barrier of shipping containers around Las Vegas to thwart a zombie exodus. Medical authorities pitch a camp for suspected infected and armed sentries eyeball them. Meantime, the owner of casino, Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada of “Mr. Holmes”), refuses to let that big boodle of $200 million in loot languish. However, he doesn’t have the luxury of forever, our President has ordered an imminent low-yield aerial nuke attack on Sin City.

Mind you, Tanaka’s insurance company has paid off his monetary losses already, since the loot is forever forfeit, because an army of zombies sits on it like a medieval dragoon. Nevertheless, greedy as only a genuine villain is, Tanaka doesn’t want to lose that fortune.

He approaches a short-order cook, Scott Ward (David Bautista of “Spectre”), awarded the Medal of Freedom during the zombie invasion when he rescued the Secretary of Defense, about bringing back those bucks. He offers Scott and company a $50 million payday to fetch him his oodles. Initially skeptical about such an outlandish proposal, Scott decides to take Tanaka’s deal.

Scott wrangles a maven motley crew. A mechanic named Maria Cruz (Ana De La Reguera of “Nacho Libre”); a chainsaw-toting troubleshooter Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick of “Kick Ass”); a hotshot chopper pilot Marianne Peters (Tig Notaro of “Instant Family”); a crack shot Mikey Guzman (Raúl Castillo of “Unsane”), with his own YouTube channel for his zombie kills; and a goofball German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer of “Valkyrie”), who sings like a bimbo soprano with he is scared.

They descend into Sin City with a blonde coyote, Chambers (stunt woman Samantha Win), to conduct them through a virulent gauntlet. Chambers warns them that not all of the zombies are so-called ‘shamblers,’ and some have a modicum of intelligence.

Wait, smart zombies? Indeed, the leader of these mindless maniacs is Zeus (Richard Cetrone of “Underworld”), and he is a genuine oddball. Wearing a tattered cape and a bulletproof face mask which shields the upper part of his face, Zeus rides a horse like Alexander the Great and shares his dominion with a queen, a Medusa-look alike.

Snyder and company treat Zeus and his dreadful queen as a rom-com couple. Actually, “Warm Bodies” (2013) beat Rich to the punch with its romantic couple subplot. Of course, nothing goes according to plan for either Scott or Tanaka after they roll into Vegas.

Snyder dreamed up his outlandish but entertaining “Army of the Dead” premise while he was helming “Dawn of the Dead,” and he has been biding his time since then to direct it. Mind you, this isn’t the first zombie apocalypse to devastate Sin City. “Highlander” director Russell Mulcahy’s “Resident Evil: Extinction”(2007) claims that distinction.

Nevertheless, the zombie queen’s severed head that lives is unforgettable! Altogether, the discouraging ending to “Army of the Dead” exacts a terrible toll on what should have amounted to mindless mayhem.

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