CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RUBEN FLEISCHER / SCREENPLAY: RHETT REESE, PAUL WERNICK, DAVE CALLAHAM / STARRING: JESSE EISENBERG, EMMA STONE, WOODY HARRELSON, ABIGAIL BRESLIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Remember Zombieland? No? Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin mucking around a post-apocalyptic USA while slaying the undead? Still not ringing any bells? The one with the brilliant cameo from Bill Murr– ah, now you remember! Ruben Fleischer’s high-energy 2009 zom-com attracted a cult audience at the time, but it nonetheless comes as a surprise to see a sequel appear a whole decade later.
Double Tap begins with our survivors having set up camp in the White House. Columbus (Eisenberg) is going steady with Wichita (Stone), until she and Little Rock (Breslin) leave one day, for travels of their own. Left with trigger-happy cowboy Tallahassee (Harrelson), Columbus finds solace in Madison (Zoey Deutsch), a ‘70s sitcom-esque dumb blonde stereotype who, despite being the most irritating screen character since Jar Jar Binks, quickly becomes his new girlfriend. Cue awkwardness when Wichita returns, having lost Little Rock, and the team embark on a road trip to Graceland to find her.
That’s the extent of the plot, which from here on in merely exists to string together the action sequences and gags. In terms of the zombie-slaying, it’s clear this second instalment has an upped budget and Fleischer has developed as a director, as while this is no post-apocalyptic John Wick, the fights have stepped up in finesse, most notably a single-take brawl around an Elvis-themed hotel. It’s just a shame that, more often than not, Fleischer overdoes it with the graphics of Columbus’s ‘rules’ for survival flashing onto the screen during fights, keeping us distanced and dampening the tension.
As to the comedy, the banter between our leads and the new supporting cast provides more of the knowing, dry wit that won the first film its cult supporters. There are a few funny enough moments, though nothing to really push the boat out – the best joke of this film is a callback to the best joke of the first, except callbacks are never as funny as the first time round – and it too often picks the wrong targets; the ‘dumb blonde’ character is one example, as is the film’s odd stance on guns...
If Night of the Living Dead was about racism and Dawn of the Dead consumerism, then Zombieland: Double Tap’s moral is this: guns are great, pacifism is bad. Now, in a zombie apocalypse, the usual rules of society wouldn’t apply and carrying a gun might be a good idea, but Double Tap goes way past that to actively romanticise good ol’ American weaponry at every possible opportunity. There's a mirror of the right wing view of anti-gun lobbyists in a group of hippies who want to take away our heroes' guns, and it's these characters who are often the target for Tallahassee's, and the script's, brutal mockery. With the cowboy's perspective then seemingly justified by later plot events, we had to check the credits to see if the film received funding from the NRA.
How much this will bother you will of course depend on your politics, but many will find it misjudged in an era when American gun violence is so often in the news. Either way, it’s sad that this is the most remarkable thing about a film that, both in its story and its comedy, otherwise seems content to repeat the same beats as the first and add little new into the mix.