Star presence can sweep audiences up and carry them on a X-Games-styled thrill-ride that otherwise would barely generate a disturbance in a kiddie wave pool. And the charismatic leads don’t have to be of the blockbusting, A-list variety — often a solid B-lister or two can make us believe. Such is the case with Timothy Olyphant (great in Deadwood) and Radha Mitchell (who more than held her own in Pitch Black) in the latest George Romero-produced would-be zombie pic about a small town sheriff and his wife struggling to survive the spread of a bio-engineered virus and the government’s attempts to cover it up, at all costs.
Romero is King of the World when it comes to topical zombie fare, but this effort, helmed by Breck Eisner, suffers from a lack of relevance, which places even more emphasis on the leads. Olyphant and Mitchell are the sane centers amidst all of the pointless craziness that speaks to nothing politically, culturally or even intrinsically human.
Back in the day when Romero was busting loose with Dead-eyed takes on suburbia and consumerism and civil rights and government cover-ups (a key element of his original Crazies), he didn’t rely on recognizable faces. But it’s worth wondering what he might have done with these two performers who have proven capable of holding their own (and our imaginations) in dire straits. It’s not so crazy to assume they might have carried the cult further into the mainstream, rather than simply making this bad new update a little more palatable. Grade: C-