Gangsters, Guns and Zombies (2012)
Directed by Matt Mitchell
Distributed by XLrator Media
From across the pond comes the zombie-infused crime comedy Gangsters, Guns and Zombies which, based on its title, pretty much delivers everything you'd be expecting but also throws in a solid story and an ensemble chock-full of great performances for good measure, with the results being a rather admirable, albeit safe, indie horror effort by first-time filmmaker Matt Mitchell.
At the start of GG&Z, we meet first-time getaway driver Q (Jerome), part of a six-man burglary team who are on their way to their safe house after a recent heist. That plan suddenly derails once they discover that the safe house, and pretty much the rest of the country, has been overrun by a zombie outbreak, and soon enough what started off as a getaway plan evolves into a madcap race for these gangsters to survive against an apocalypse of the undead.
As far as small budgeted indie horror fare goes, Mitchell smartly makes GG&Z more about the gangsters than the zombies, making his lack of budget work in favor of his wickedly funny character study. Don't worry; there are still plenty of zombies (and impressively gooey gore moments) throughout GG&Z, but it's more about them being a constant threat than an invading force that inconveniently shows up here and there. Mitchell also somehow manages to pull off the impossible by going with an old-school approach to his ghouls (slow-moving) and their kills without ever getting repetitive on us either. We get plenty of zombie action from start to finish featuring straight-up flesh-eaters, clown zombies, medieval zombies and a few other varieties, too, which again is pretty remarkable considering the budget behind the project.
And since much of the focus in GG&Z is centered around the ensemble chatting it up in various confined locations, the ensemble Mitchell put together for the flick all have their own opportunities to really shine throughout the flick. Jerome is a likable anti-hero who makes for an engaging protagonist, and Huggy Leaver (of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels fame- a movie whose influence is also felt here) plays a perfect cold-blooded and no-nonsense leader of the ragtag group of criminals. Another standout performance is Fabrizio Santino as Crazy Steve- a guy whose obsession with his shoes ends up stealing the spotlight throughout much of the film's first half, and Jennie Lathan, the eldest member of the cast, is absolutely hilarious as an overprotective grandmother who's rather handy with her rifle.
If forced to nitpick, I'd say that my only real issue with GG&Z is that a lot of the time Mitchell plays it too safe with the story, making a few of the film's twists and turns a bit predictable; that's not to say that its predictability really hampered my enjoyment of the film, but when a film's premise is plainly laid out in its title, you kind of want a few surprises thrown at you along the way. The pacing feels slightly off at times as well, but by the time the third act rolls around, Mitchell & company get things back on track for a strong finish.
As far as indie horror flicks go, Gangsters, Guns and Zombies is one of the better efforts I've seen this year and deserves to find an audience now that XLrator Media has released it on DVD everywhere. While it may not necessarily reinvent the wheel in what is a very popular (and perhaps overdone) subgenre these days, co-writer and director Mitchell clearly wears his zombie-loving heart on his sleeve with his efforts on Gangsters, Guns and Zombies, and the results are a rather clever and fun flick with plenty of homages, heart and enthusiasm. I'd love to see what Mitchell can do next time with a bigger budget at his disposal.
3 1/2 out of 5