A small Iowa town goes berserk and it’s up to the sheriff and his deputy to save his wife in The Crazies, a fun variation on the zombie movie.
David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant, who apparently has a sheriff’s badge tattooed on his chest at this point; he plays a U.S. Marshal in the new TV show Justified) loves being sheriff of his small Iowa town of Ogden Nash. He knows the townfolk, gets to work with his good friend Deputy Russell Clank, and his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell), a prominent doctor, is finally pregnant with their child. Sheriff Dutton is a contented man when he stops by the local high school to watch the opening baseball game of the season. But then, look, says his deputy, what’s that in the outfield. Why it’s a well-known local man stumbling onto the field with a gun. Put the gun down, Dutton tells the man, whose dazed expression makes Dutton thinks he’s drunk. The man pays no attention and then raises his gun, endangering the crowd, the sheriff, bucolic America — what’s a straight-shooter like Dutton supposed to do? He shoots the man, who falls down dead. So troubling, we intuit from the extra stress-squinch Timothy Olyphant gives his character’s expression.
Just a case of a man under the influence, Dutton tries to tell himself — that is until the coroner informs him that the dead man had no alcohol in his system. Meanwhile, across town, Judy sees another dazed man and schedules him to accompany her to Cedar Rapids at the end of the week for a head CT. Which is a good idea. I mean, what’s the chance he’s going to give in to his murderous impulse before then?
Naturally, faster than you can say “George A. Romero” more of Dutton’s farm-county neighbors start to act funny — staring off into middle distance, bleeding from the nose, sewing people’s eyes shut (a funeral home is not the place to be when a zombie infection hits). Dutton and Deputy Clank try to get help, but their phones are dead and there’s no Internet access. Together with the airplane wreckage the duo found near the water supply, all these happenings add up to one thing for Dutton — time to kick ass and get his pregnant wife out of town.
Well, actually, he at first tries to help people, yada yada, but we all know where this is headed.
If the world is gonna go mad, Timothy Olyphant is a good man to have around. “Crazed and pissed” is his resting state. He can convey the end-of-days in his sleep. And, since Deadwood, he’s pulled off Western lawman with gritty aplomb. It’s fun watching him stare down the zombified and even more fun watching him take-no-crap from the U.S. government officials sent in to deal, roughly, with the crisis. You get your zombie-created mayhem (zombies never just kill people, they kill them horribly and with copious arterial splatter), your escape highjinks, your man against the law and your gallows humor. It’s all the more lovely that all this horror fun is packed inside a relatively quiet package; I thought I was in for another lackluster bit of slasher fare but the movie surprises you by always making the interesting choice — not the easy choice. This mix of action, gore and a bit of winking absurdity is what you come to the movies for when you come to the movies for zombie, and The Crazies delightfully delivers. B
Rated R for bloody violence and language. Directed by Breck Eisner and written by Scott Kosar and Ray Wright (from the 1973 movie by the same name by George A. Romero), The Crazies is an hour and 41 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Overture Films.