'Arizona': Film Review

As if the housing crash wasn't bad enough.
8/24/2018

Danny McBride plays a distraught homeowner who goes on a killing spree in Jonathan Watson's darkly comic thriller.

Danny McBride proves that his obnoxious doofus persona doesn't get funnier when it becomes more lethal. Playing an unhinged homeowner who accidentally winds up on a killing spree in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, the actor stars in Jonathan Watson's tonally muddled directorial debut that strains for a Coen brothers vibe and misses by a mile. Severely wasting the talents of Rosemary DeWitt, who really, really deserves better material, Arizona is as arid and barren as the state that provides its title.

The 2009-set story begins with Cassie (DeWitt), a financially struggling real-estate agent, attempting to peddle a suburban home in a desolate housing complex to a skeptical couple. Her sales pitch is interrupted by screams coming from a nearby house, which turn out to be those of a woman desperately trying to save her husband from hanging himself.

That pitch-black opening sequence sets the tone for the film whose director has previously collaborated with McBride on the HBO show Vice Principals. When Cassie returns to her office, her boss Gary (Seth Rogen in an uncredited cameo) is confronted by Sonny (McBride), a disgruntled client who's gone bankrupt and gotten divorced after buying a home that lost all its value. In the ensuing clumsy struggle, Gary winds up dead after falling off a balcony. Instead of calling the police, a panicking Sonny kidnaps Cassie and brings her to his sprawling but essentially worthless house.

Insisting that he's a "good person," the increasingly unhinged Sonny alternates between trying to be a genial host to his captive and angrily accusing her of being one of the lying swindlers who brought him and countless others to financial ruin. Things don't get better with the unexpected arrival of his ex-wife (Kaitlin Olson), who soon winds up dead as well. Desperately attempting to cover his tracks, Sonny quickly spirals out of control, leaving a long body count in his wake.

Among the possible victims are Cassie's teenage daughter (Lolli Sorenson); her ex-husband (Luke Wilson) and his new, much younger girlfriend (Elizabeth Gillies); and a cop (David Alan Grier) who lacks a partner because nearly all of the town's police force has been let go.

Screenwriter Luke Del Tredici, another TV veteran (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 30 Rock), strains to infuse the violent proceedings with broad, farcical humor. But his efforts go for naught, with the constant bloody slayings putting a damper on whatever satirical points the film is trying to make. And the constant stream of wisecracks emanating from Sonny, who sounds like pretty much every character McBride has ever played, aren't very funny considering the context.

Wilson is utterly wasted in his thankless role, but it's the misuse of the talented DeWitt that truly rankles. True, the actress makes the most of things, finding real emotional depths in her character's desperate attempts to save herself and her daughter. But for the pic to have her stripped to her bra in the final scenes, like every nubile teenage victim in every typical slasher film, just feels wrong.

Production companies: Rough House Pictures, Imperative Entertainment
Distributor: RLJE Films
Cast: Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Wilson, Lolli Sorenson, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson, David Alan Grier
Director: Jonathan Watson
Screenwriter: Luke Del Tredici
Producers: Danny McBride, Brandon James, Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Ryan Friedkin
Executive producers: David Gordan Green, Jody Hill, Gino Falsetto, Luke Del Tredici
Director of photography: Drew Daniels
Production designer: Richard A. Wright
Editor: Jeff Seibenick
Composer: Joseph Stephens
Costume designer: Sarah Trost
Casting: Sharon Bialy, Sherry Thomas

85 minutes