No African-American paratroopers dropped into Normandy on D-Day with the 101st Airborne Division. The unit was segregated.
The hero of “Overlord,” Pvt. Boyce (Jovan Adepo), is an African-American 101st Airborne parachutist who drops into Normandy on D-Day. His is the first face seen, in close-up, at the movie’s opening.
Thus does the movie’s uberproducer J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” etc., etc.) give a vigorous nod to diversity. Thus also does “Overlord” (named for the D-Day operation in World War II) let the audience know right away that it is barely tethered to anything approaching recognizable reality.
But, reality? What’s that? This is movie about GIs battling zombies and Nazis on D-Day.
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Nazis. Zombies. What a concept! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Well, actually, the Finns did back in 2009 with the wild horror thriller “Dead Snow.”
So nothing new under the sun here. But wild “Overlord” most certainly is, stuffed with scenes of grisly torture, grotesque disfigurements, leering SS rapists and the undead running around after being instantly reanimated with a super serum developed by a ghoulish doc in a secret underground lab.
Adepo’s Boyce is the moral conscience of the story, admonishing his squad’s leader, Cpl. Ford (Wyatt Russell), as the man beats the living stuffings out of the vile Nazi villain (Pilou Asbæk; his leer remains in place ever after half his face is blown off) that “we’re not like him.”
A useful reminder, that.
Boyce is rather a softie who, early in his military career couldn’t even kill a mouse. That changes.
Adepo is very good at registering shock, fear and worry in a performance as overwrought as the rest of the movie.
Other characters are all familiar war-movie types, from the mouthy cynical New York rifleman, the fresh-faced innocent trooper and the humble but feisty French peasant girl whose makeup, one can’t help but notice, is oh so tastefully applied and who shows remarkable proficiency with a flamethrower and an automatic weapon.
Zombies. Nazis. Cliches. Insane violence. “Overlord” delivers a whole lot of much too much.
1 1/2 stars out of 4
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro
Director: Julius Avery
Running time: 1:50
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content.