By Ali Coad
What happens in the space between desperation and impulse? Jonathan Watson’s directorial debut “Arizona” teaches us that absolutely nothing good happens in that space. And worse than nothing good, the thing that’s most likely going happen is murder.
“Arizona” is set in… Arizona. It takes place during the 2009 housing crisis. So in this movie, you have a lot of desperate, sad people knee-deep in the meaty the aftermath of that. This action-comedy-horror story begins with Cassie, played by Rosemary DeWitt (“Your Sister’s Sister,” “Poltergeist,” and “The Promise Land”), who’s just excellent. She’s an actress with a kind of quality that just incites curiosity. You want to know more about her, and once you do, you inevitably root for her. In this movie, she’s a single mom and struggling relator. She too was one of the many excited people duped into homeownership during the boom. But now, she’s desperate nearing the end of her frayed rope. She’s recently divorced from Scott (played by the ever-affable Luke Wilson), her fourteen-year-old angsty daughter hates her, and work as a relator, quite obviously, isn’t going well. On this particular day, however, work really doesn’t go well.
Sonny (Danny McBride) steams into her office eager to pick a fight with Cassie’s boss, played by an uncredited Seth Rogen. He’s fed up. The house that Rogen sold him caused his divorce, caused him more problems than he can name. And then push comes to shove, and Sonny accidently kills him. Cassie is a witness… the only witness. So naturally, Sonny must abduct her. And this is where things escalate quickly.
Cassie wakes up duct taped to a chair in Sonny’s living room. McBride is perfect as this manic but oddly likeably man who, at this point, has absolutely nothing to lose. He moves quickly but thinks slowly. Cassie looks around the home, and Sonny is eager to talk about all of the amazing features of his state-of-the-art home, about his rascally kids, about his golf game and how its in decline because of his back problems. He’s a man who has no idea what he’s doing. And things are going just fine until his ex-wife (played by the equally manic Kaitlin Olson) storms in. And, for obvious reasons, she’s not thrilled when she sees a tied-up woman in the living room. She calls Sonny stupid, and she pokes that open wound one too many times. She’s just mean enough. And Sonny loses his temper and shoots her. Right in the middle of the head. Another one dead and gone.
The film follows a pretty similar trajectory for its 85-minute run, all of it culminating to a pretty explosive finale. This movie was fun. It was. Thre were occasional moments in the film, where I felt that it was just a bit too tone-deaf. Is this moment dramatic or slapstick? Is this darkly funny or just plain dark? And where some people may enjoy the collateral damage in a zany and twisted thriller like this one, I’m just not one of those people. Why did the dog have to get shot? Why did Luke Wilson have to die? What has Luke Wilson ever done?
It’s not a movie I’d venture to the theatres to see, but if you find yourself with nothing to watch on a Thursday night, sure, go ahead and jump into “Arizona.”