'Arizona' review: Danny McBride dialed up to level 11

Arizona

...for better or worse.

The 2009 housing crisis (which I vaguely understand because of The Big Short, so thanks Adam McKay) was a rough time for most people.

Homes were lost, families were evicted and, perhaps worst of all, is that very few people were actually held responsible for decades worth of misconduct.

Jonathan Watson, a first-time director, clearly has thoughts on all of this. That’s what lead him to Arizona.

Arizona is a new dark comedy/thriller/horror movie that’s sneaking its way into an August release date, as no one really seemed to know this was coming out now. They released a trailer for Arizona, like, a week ago, and then I suddenly I realized it was playing at a theater near me so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Arizona
credit: YouTube

Set in an Arizona desert after the housing market crash, Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a single-mother real-estate agent who will do anything to provide for her daughter, Morgan (Lolli Sorenson).

Make no mistake, Cassie wasn’t one of those getting rich off of people who couldn’t afford her mortgage. She’s in the same boat as everyone else as she, too, has loans that she can’t pay off. This job is her only shot of being able to do so, so she grits her teeth and gets through the work, even if it certainly isn’t easy during these times.

Sonny (Danny McBride) doesn’t quite see it that way. His house is being foreclosed on and he’s looking for somebody to blame.

Granted, Sonny is a pretty irritable and unhinged guy who could literally snap at any given moment, but Watson’s point is that he, at least somewhat, has a right to be angry — even if there isn’t any specific person to be angry at.

Arizona
credit: YouTube

That anger quickly gets Sonny into trouble, though, as he marches into Cassie’s real-estate office demanding answers. Before anyone even knows what happened, Cassie finds herself as a witness to Sonny’s violent actions, which throw her into deep trouble.

While he thinks of himself as a reasonable guy, Sonny can’t just let Cassie walk away. She’s seen too much. So, he does what any intelligent person in his situation might do — he kidnaps Cassie while he figures out what his next move is going to be.

Maybe it can all work out, he thinks to himself. Maybe Cassie will wind up being really cool and the two of them can get through this situation together, without anyone ever knowing about the crime he committed.

Arizona
credit: YouTube

Thing is, Cassie isn’t acting so cool. She’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be here and that she has no intention of keeping quiet

So that’s when things get real messy, as all of that is just the first act to Arizona. From there, insanity ensues as Sonny turns into a complete maniac and Cassie has to fight for not just her life, but her daughters, ex-husband Scott’s (Luke Wilson) and a whole bunch of other people.

That’s when the movie actually gets good too. The first twenty-five minutes, on the other hand, were a bit of a struggle to get through.

I like Danny McBride. I think he can be an incredibly funny actor, especially when teaming up with Seth Rogen as This is the End and Pineapple Express are both some of my favorite comedies to be released in the past decade. I like his more serious stuff too, like his role in Alien: Covenant, and I can’t wait to see what he does in Halloween.

Arizona
credit: YouTube

When doing comedy, McBride is often known for playing crazy, idiotic characters. That’s fine because that’s what he’s good at. It’s a problem, however, when the movie fully relies on that character to carry the entire motion picture on his back.

In any other movie, Sonny would be the comic-relief sidekick who’s constantly laughed at and made fun of. In Arizona, they gave him his own movie and expected that stick to be the main selling point. McBride does all he can with it, but the joke wears thin after the first five minutes.

The movie keeps going, though, as they’re determined to establish just how checked out of reality Sonny is. At this point, this is the only storyline too, so we don’t even get to cut-away from all the stupidity.

Arizona
credit: YouTube

Eventually, Arizona becomes wise to this and begins to move in a different direction. Luckily, I hadn’t fully checked out yet so I was still able to jump on board, and therefore had a decent amount of fun with the rest of the movie. McBride’s lines were still cringe-worthy at times, but the absurdity of everything that was going on around him was enough to keep me hooked.

Rosemarie DeWitt helps a lot too. While the way her character is written can be slightly frustrating at times — there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be able to escape from this moron, even if he does have a gun — DeWitt is able to turn in a grounded and well-acted performance in the midst of everything around here.

Which leads to the overarching problem, really — Arizona can’t pick a tone. Sometimes it wants to be this witty satire with clever black comedy angle (which is when the movie is at it’s best), and at other times it wants to be this over-the-top farce full of gags and stoner humor.

Arizona
credit: YouTube

Granted, the whole idea of dark comedy is combining different elements like this, but you have to know how to do it right. Arizona may come close in certain moments, but it can’t fully pull the trigger on it. There’s still fun to be had — as soon as you make it through those first twenty-five minutes and things actually start happening, it gets a lot better — but it’s still a pretty middling film in the end.

Watch the trailer for Arizona here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!

'Arizona' review: Danny McBride dialed up to level 11
  • 'Arizona' review: Danny McBride dialed up to level 11
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