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Arizona (2018)

RLJE Films
4K UHD Released: 10/16/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/8/2018

The housing and mortgage crisis of 2008 was devastating for many in the United States, as they saw the American dream of owning their own home evaporate in front of them. The Big Short took us behind the scenes into the business world to see how this event took investors by surprise and how a select few were able to take advantage of it. 99 Homes showed us another aspect of the business world, as it depicted how foreclosures skyrocketed in this climate. The movie certainly put more of a human face on the homeowners. Now, a decade later, we get Arizona, a film which strives to take us directly to the front lines of that time period. But, is this a story which we still want to see?

Arizona takes place in the city of Harding, Arizona, in the year 2009. Real estate agent Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) moved here with her daughter, Morgan (Lolli Sorenson), with hopes of striking it rich in a new housing market. However, the mortgage crisis has devastated Harding, and many houses sit boarded-up and abandoned. Still, Cassie tries her best to convince people that it's a great place to live. Sonny (Danny McBride) is one of the people who bought into the promise of Harding and now that he's about to lose his house, he's furious. He storms into Cassie's office to confront her boss and this ignites a series of violent events. Suddenly, Cassie goes from the fear of losing her house to the fear of losing her life.

One of the most difficult things to achieve in a film is a true balance in tone, especially if the film attempts to straddle multiple genres. If a movie is a true drama or a true comedy, it should be fairly easy for it to color inside the lines and keep the overall feel of the film pretty stable. Arizona wants to be many things at once, and the tone is all over the place. Obviously, the housing crisis is a serious topic and the movie confronts the idea that the individuals who lost their homes were placed in desperate situations which could lead to homicide or suicide. In addition to this, the movie wants to be a crime drama which borders on Tarantinoesque territory, as there are several moments where violence explodes out of nowhere. Added to this mixture is a big dose of dark comedy. The result is a mess which apparently springs from relative inexperience. This is the first feature film for Director Jonathan Watson and Screenwriter Luke Del Tredici, although both have worked in the industry for years -- Watson as an assistant director and Del Tredici as a television writer and producer.

As you can probably guess, the problem with Arizona is that it has no idea what it wants to be. If it had stuck with being a serious drama about how much people were hurt by losing their houses and most likely their financial futures, then it could have been a powerful film. However, dropped into this depressing tale is a goofy, bleached-hair Danny McBride. Don't get me wrong, I love McBride and this isn't his fault. His brand of arrogant stupidity is not what this movie needed. From there, Arizona morphs into a hostage-based crime film and things simply spiral out of control, as the violence in the film escalates. Speaking of spirals, only the most determined viewers will stick with the movie until the end, as it turns into a loop which simply repeats itself. This becomes one of those movies in which a character has a chance to bring things to a close, not once, but twice, and doesn't, leaving a frustrated audience to yell at the screen.

It's been a long time since we've had a "I've heard of these people, why haven't I heard of this movie?" review. Along with the actors listed above, we also get cameos from Luke Wilson, Seth Rogen and David Alan Grier. Behind the scenes, we have the team which brought us Vice Principals. With all of these experienced people involved, Arizona should have been much better. It so badly wants to be a dark comedy, but the subject matter is simply too depressing and there are no likable characters here -- Sonny is too obnoxious and Cassie digs her own grave...literally. The first 30 minutes does offer a few laughs and some shocking moments, but once you realize that the movie is going nowhere from there, it becomes a very rough ride. I'm sure that Arizona is a perfectly good place to visit -- Just not like this.

Arizona offers a very brown landscape on 4K UHD courtesy of RLJE Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 55 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and any bright tones really stand out against the beige backdrops. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as the picture is very crisp. The depth works very well, most notably in the exterior scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get some nice surround and stereo effects during the third act, where sounds coming from behind and off-screen are important. Still, one does hope for a Dolby Atmos or DTS-X track on a 4K UHD.

The Arizona Blu-ray Disc contains only a small amount of extra features. "The Making of Arizona" (9 minutes) offers interviews with DeWitt, McBride, and Luke Wilson, who discuss the story and the themes of the film. These are very much "on-set" interviews, as DeWitt and McBride are covered in blood. The only other extra is a "Photo Gallery".

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long