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Blu-ray Review: Arizona

Distributor: RLJE Films

In ARIZONA, Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a real estate agent and single mom struggling to keep it all together during the housing crisis of 2009. Her problems go from bad to worse when disgruntled client Sonny (Danny McBride) violently confronts Cassie’s boss and then kidnaps Cassie – making one outrageously bad, and bloody, decision after another. Things completely spiral out of control in this explosive action comedy.

(Spoilers throughout. Run!)

Black comedies seldom get as black as Arizona, which hails from several of the folks who previously brought you HBO’s short-lived black-comedy series Vice Principals. Mostly, it feels like your typical early ‘90s “sleeping with the enemy” type of thriller where the person you thought you could trust turns out to be psychotically good at being psycho and tries to kill you — and anyone who tries to help you. Think of it as the third act of Pacific Heights, but stretched out for an entire feature film, only it’s the acidic Danny McBride taking on Michael Keaton’s previously murderous role and imbuing it with the expected amount of Danny McBrideisms. Funnily enough, his character of Sonny — one presented as someone already unhinged, but someone whose psychology is worsened by the 2009 housing market collapse — is actually less grating here than he is in Vice Principals, and in that role he’s, technically, the good guy. In Arizona, he’s quite murderous. Lots of people die, violently, and it’s perhaps because his character is so broadly painted as the villain that he’s less offensive to watch. He’s villainous enough, but also drops your usual bevy of McBride one-liners about how he’s awesome, etc., that he’s lots of fun to watch, even as he completely destroys the immediate existence of Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt), a suffering real estate agent very much in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s ironic that Danny McBride is a co-writer on Halloween, which opens wide this week, because in Arizona, despite it being a very black comedy, he essentially plays Michael Myers. (This is my own goofball theory, but go with it. Also, this is where the spoilers begin.) In the original Halloween, Michael Myers kills five people (and a dog) across a sprawling and beautiful suburbia that, despite its booming population, seems to have very few residents. After being tracked down by the obsessive Dr. Loomis, he’s shot and falls off the first-story balcony and lands on the hard ground, where he’s assumed dead. In Arizona, Danny McBride’s Sonny kills five people (and a dog) across a sprawling and beautiful suburbia that has very few residents. After being tracked down by Cassie’s obsessive ex-husband, Sonny falls off the first-story unfinished basement steps and lands on the hard floor, where he’s most definitely dead. Added to that, both killers wear a “costume” during the midst of their killing spree to play coy and get close to a victim, both sheriffs are well meaning but prove ultimately useless, and our poor beleaguered final girls are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and become the killer’s main target. Even the synth-based musical score by Joseph Stevens is absolutely aping Carpenter’s very well known style.

Arizona feels like a throwback to another genre era, but one that’s been prepped and repackaged for the newer, savvier generation who wouldn’t be able to take its concept seriously unless the film were already sort of making fun of it too. It’s often funny, but also often grisly, and the combination of the two works just as often as when it doesn’t. That’s a total paradox, I know, but Arizona is an odd duck of an experience. It’s absolutely worth a one-time viewing at the very least, especially for fans of McBride (if there exist such people). He certainly shows off a side of him never before seen, and I’d be interested to know how much of the audience is willing to buy him as a psychotic spree-killer as equally conflicted with what he’s doing as he is not conflicted at all…while playing Danny McBride.


The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • “The Making of Arizona”
  • Photo Gallery


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J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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