Saturday, September 1, 2018

Movie Reviews: Arizona

directed by Jonathan Watson
Shooting someone in the head is not by definition, funny.
There are some people who can mix comedy and violence and have it work out ok (Tarantino and all of his copycats, certain horror movie directors, The first Hangover movie, etc). But it's a really thin line to walk. Not everyone can do it. Watson shows that in this movie at least he's unable to keep the balance. I can enjoy a well done violent black comedy. This wasn't that movie. There wasn't anything comic about the situations or most of the characters. So because there was little humor all that's left is sex and violence. There's not a whole lot of sex appeal, though the lead female character takes her top off at a (ahem) "climatic" moment for reasons, but there's a tremendous amount of violence. 

I wonder if the director or producer changed the writer's original vision. It felt like it. Or maybe I only think that because I can't imagine how anyone watched the film's final cut before release and thought that it was funny, even in a very dark sardonic way. 

This movie felt like two movies were jammed together: a serial killer film and a comic family breakup film. It briefly jumped back and forth between both styles before veering suddenly and sharply to the serial killer film. After it did that the "jokes" fell increasingly flat. Arizona tries to market itself as a satire about greed and chicanery in the real estate market, specifically in the 2008-2009 meltdown and recession.  But satire ought to be smart. Satire ought to have something to say about the subject it's addressing. Arizona doesn't have much to say. It's just a slasher movie masquerading as a black comedy. The male lead Danny McBride, does a great job playing a blustering bully but his performance really belonged in another film.

Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a leggy real estate agent in the Phoenix area. She's a divorced single mother with an irritating disrespectful teen daughter and a solicitous ex-husband Scott (Luke Wilson). Scott, despite having taken up with a girlfriend almost young enough to be his daughter, is very supportive of Cassie and their daughter. Or at least he would be if Cassie weren't caught up in her grrl power independence schtick. 

This makes no sense for Cassie because just like her real estate clients suckers she's bought more house than she can afford and is on the wrong side of an adjustable rate mortgage. Cassie is three months behind on mortgage payments and only one more missed payment away from foreclosure. But she won't ask Scott for help. Yeah, that makes sense.

Cassie isn't selling many homes, something that irritates her sleazy boss Gary (Seth Rogen).  Gary enjoys looking at and commenting on Cassie's chest; he would clearly like to leverage Cassie's financial troubles to sleep with her, if he hasn't done so already. Sonny (McBride) arrives at Cassie's office and gets into an argument with Gary. Sonny is undergoing a divorce. There's not enough equity in the home to split with his wife (Kaitlin Olson). In fact Sonny is underwater on the home. He blames Gary, who calls Sonny a sucker. The argument turns physical and Sonny accidentally throws Gary off the balcony. Panicking, Sonny kidnaps Cassie while he tries to figure out what to do. He also starts killing other people to cover up the previous killing and then kills other people to cover up THAT killing and so on.

Does this sound humorous to you? Well it wasn't that funny to watch either. Depending on the story needs Sonny is either a clueless oaf in over his head or a sadistic mastermind who was a ticking time bomb long before current events. You can miss this film unless you just love slasher films and/or seeing people shot in the head.
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