Set during the housing crisis of 2009, Arizona is a pitch-black horror comedy about an angry suburban homeowner who, instead of directing his frustration into some sort of therapy or accepting any responsibility for the way his life is falling apart, murders his real estate agent, kidnaps another, and goes on a killing spree. While the movie offers a few laughs and even manages moments of high-stakes tension, the tones are often conflicting, and the effective aspects of both never maximize their potential.
Rosemarie DeWitt stars as Cassie, a real estate agent who is struggling to hold her life together and establish a relationship with her daughter, Morgan (Lolli Sorenson), after recently separating from her husband (Luke Wilson). When Cassie witnesses her boss being murdered by Sonny (Danny McBride), an unhinged client, she is taken captive and reluctantly terrorized as the nightmarish scenario spirals out of control.
Arizona boasts great work from Rosemarie DeWitt, who convincingly portrays a middle-aged mother grasping at the straws of her life, and Danny McBride as his typical deranged/darkly humorous type (I would argue that, while he is a literal murderer, McBride’s Sonny is a nicer guy than the majority of his characters). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In addition to these rock-solid performances, the script by Luke Del Tredici packs a few gruesome surprises that temporarily lends Arizona an unpredictability before it makes the conscience decision to ALWAYS be unpredictable, which unfortunately causes the developments of the film’s latter half to be glaringly obvious and ineffective.
Wherein lies the ultimate disappointment of Arizona.
Between Tredici’s script and the direction of Jonathan Watson, the film squanders all that is good about it and never manages to feel more than fine. It’s caught somewhere between silliness and seriousness, and it’s only halfway good at both. As a whole, the film is as middle-of-the-road as it could possibly be. David Gordon Green and Jody Hill serve as producers on the film, each of who have mastered this tonal balance several times throughout their respective careers, and I can’t help but think that, had one of them been in the director’s chair, the tones would have gelled better. As it stands, though, Arizona never quite works.