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Arizona (Sundance Review)

Arizona (Sundance Review)
6 10

PLOT: In the midst of the housing crash, a desperate homeowner (Danny McBride) kidnaps the real estate agent (Rosemarie DeWitt) who saw him kill her boss.

REVIEW: ARIZONA is a curious addition to Sundance’s midnight lineup, coming from a bunch of folks better known for comedy, like producer-star Danny McBride, and writer Luke Del Tredici, a writer on shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”. In a way, this feels like something of a rehearsal for McBride’s upcoming HALLOWEEN reboot, which he’s writing. Here, he gets to play the psycho killer, albeit a much more human version than I presume the version of Michael Myers he’s writing will be.

His character, Sonny, isn’t too far removed from the man-child jerks he plays on “Eastbound & Down” or “Vice Principals”. Heck, they always seemed on the verge of murder. This is them after a bad accident, with it not taking much to turn him into a full-blown psycho, hunting an accidental witness, Rosemarie DeWitt’s realtor Cassie, through the crumbling housing development she sells homes in.

ARIZONA is cleverly set in 2009, when McMansions were being ditched en masse after the sub-prime mortgages spiked and the property values crashed. McBride’s Sonny is one such victim, a nightmare version of entitlement, with him assuming his goofy wine-ice (named “Wice”) will make him able to afford the huge house he’s now about to lose. DeWitt’s realtor is similarly underwater, although that doesn’t stop him from taking her hostage, with his crimes escalating more and more to the point that he starts to rack up a huge body count.

The hook for this is great, with the setting a smart choice, and McBride playing well to type. Likewise, DeWitt elevates her role, with her giving the character enough edge and entitlement to keep her from becoming too cliche. It marks the directorial debut of Jonathan Watson, a second unit director with a long career, having recently worked on THE DISASTER ARTIST, putting him well within this circle of cool comedy folks.

The problem with ARIZONA is this - halfway through the movie it starts to lose gas. At only just over eighty minutes, it should be a fast, propulsive watch, but it feels like after awhile everyone had no idea how to stretch what could have been a great short out to feature length. As a result, one gets the feeling they’re treading water, with extended character moments going to people like David Alan Grier, Luke Wilson and Elizabeth Gillies - none of whom have too much of an impact on the plot. They’re extraneous, but they’re also needed to keep this from being a forty-five minute movie.

In the end, ARIZONA is an OK comedy-thriller hybrid, a kind of Coen Bros riff that gives McBride the chance to cut loose even more than usual, while providing DeWitt with a nice turn as a heroine. It’s a quick watch, but also a lot more inconsistent then it should have been given how short it is. At least it’s entertaining though, and fans of McBride will no doubt want to check it out.

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