In the new dark comedy Arizona, Danny McBride plays a villain who’s convinced he’s still a good guy, despite a few setbacks. I’m fascinated by McBride’s recent venture into genre film. Last summer, he joined the ensemble cast of Alien: Covenant and lately he’s been busy writing the screenplay for the upcoming Halloween. But this doesn’t mean he’s given up his first love, comedy. Why can’t he do both fear and humor?
It’s been a year since the housing crisis of 2008. Cassie (Rosemarie DeWitt) is real estate agent living in the suburbs of Harding, Arizona. All of the surrounding houses in the area have been abandoned after the crash. Cassie is under a lot of pressure. It’s bad enough that she has to share joint custody of her 14-year-old daughter Morgan (Lolli Sorenson) with her ex-husband Scott (Luke Wilson). Now, the bank keeps calling her concerning her overdue mortgage payments. Work isn’t going great either. No one can afford to buy property and Cassie has to deal with her verbally abusive boss Doug (Seth Rogen).
“Sonny is a typical Danny McBride character; short-sighted and short-tempered, but always believing that he is in the right.”
But Cassie’s life is about to get much worse when Sonny (Danny McBride) walks into her office. Sonny has a bone to pick with Doug who sold him his house that he’s about to lose. Their shouting match escalates to violent shoving, and an enraged Sonny pushes Doug off the second-story balcony, cracking his head open on the hard concrete. Cassie, having witnessed the whole thing, suggests calling the police, but Sonny has a better idea. He knocks her out and kidnaps her.
Cassie wakes up Sonny’s couch, her arms bound in duct tape. Sonny apologises profusely for hitting Cassie, saying he panicked. Like Cassie, Sonny is recently divorced and he’s afraid of losing his house and custody of his two sons. To prove that he’s a good person, he gives Cassie a tour of his home and even shows her his impressive gun collection. For a moment, the two of them connect over their hate of Doug. She promises she’ll keep her mouth shut and Sonny is about to let her go, until he notices her wedding ring.
Cassie admits she keeps it on for showings because clients are more likely to buy a house from a happily married woman. This sends Sonny into a rage once again because if there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s lying realtors. He ties Cassie to a chair, just as his ex-wife (Kaitlin Olson of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) walks in. Now he can’t let a second witness get away, so he knocks her out and ties her up too. Needless to say, things escalate quickly and Sonny- in for a penny, in for a pound- finds himself buried in trouble.
Sonny is a typical Danny McBride character; short-sighted and short-tempered, but always believing that he is in the right. He hits first and apologizes later. At first, you sympathize with him, because he comes off as an honest man who made one fatal mistake. But as the bodies begin to pile up, he realizes he’s in too deep and every possible witness must be eliminated. Cassie is only kept alive because he needs her to bury the bodies due to his bad back, but it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her too. Danny McBride has some great moments as he struggles with the conventions of being a serial murderer, such as tying up his victims and covering up his tracks. Some kills are accidental and could have been avoided, whereas others are committed in cold blood.
“[Modern Comedies] need a bit more danger and a lot more blood to satisfy the audience’s dark humor”
Comedy is in an odd place right now. Most of modern comedy blockbusters that come out are forgotten within a couple weeks, regardless of their A-list cast. That’s why they need a bit more danger and a lot more blood to satisfy the audience’s dark humor. The idea to set it after the recession was clever. The fact that there’s no neighbors close enough to hear anyone’s screams or that every house in the gated community looks exactly the same adds to the suspense and confusion.
Although Arizona is Jonathan Watson directorial debut, he has experience working as an assistant director on The Green Mile and The Amazing Spider-Man. The script was written by Luke Del Tredici who also wrote for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so the film was in no way handled by amateurs. It will be interesting to see how Arizona is received when it’s released to the public. It’s not exactly quotable like most great comedies, but its darker elements will engage viewers more so than anything Will Ferrel has put out in the past few years.
Arizona had its Canadian premiere on July 31st at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival. It was recently acquired by RLJE and will soon have a theatrical release. Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!