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Sundance Film Review: ‘Arizona’


Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bust. It’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt ...


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Get the magazine and exclusive online content - Subscribe Today! Read Next: Sundance Film Review: 'A Kid Like Jake' Instagram Twitter YouTube Facebook Variety.com Menu Film TV Music Tech Politics Theater Real Estate Awards Video V500 HOME Film Festivals January 28, 2018 3:13AM PT Sundance Film Review: ‘Arizona’ In this middling horror comedy set during the Arizona housing crisis, home buyer Danny McBride takes out his aggression with a gun. By Amy Nicholson Amy Nicholson Amy's Most Recent Stories Sundance Film Review: ‘A Kid Like Jake’ Sundance Film Review: ‘Arizona’ Sundance Film Review: ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn’ View All Facebook Twitter Reddit Email Show more sharing options LinkedIn WhatsApp Print Pin It Tumblr CREDIT: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival Director: Jonathan Watson With: Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Wilson, Lolli Sorenson, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson. 1 hour 25 minutes Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know better than to invest in this nowheresville hamlet where most of the windows are boarded and the dead grass is spray-painted green. Billboards boast that this desert ghetto is “Where life imitates vacation!” It’s really where life becomes a nightmare for single mom Cassie and her 14-year-old daughter Morgan (Lolli Sorenson) when murderous moron Sonny (Danny McBride) imprisons them in his house and grins that no neighbors can hear them screamBut to Sonny, Cassie’s no victim; she’s the villain whose company tricked him into mortgaging the home that drained his bank account and wrecked his marriage. Watson has a great premise and an eye for the stone lions, abstract metal art, and spinning yard sculptures that mark buyers like Sonny as pretentiously middlebrowHe films ominous aerial shots of beige cul de sacs with zero signs of life and manages to make the yellow afternoon sun look sinisterYet, as a caricature of American economics, “Arizona” peaks when Sonny flaunts his can’t-miss invention — frozen wine ice cubes that he swears a big store might buy — and brags that one of his weapons is “a Ginsu knife from Kohl’s.” From there, things just get goofy without being any fun. More Reviews Sundance Film Review: 'A Kid Like Jake' Sundance Film Review: 'Butterflies' Sonny’s right: Cassie is a great liarIn the opening scene, she smoothly attempts to convince a husband and his third wife that the home they’re considering is perfect for families, never mind that she knows its a 12-mile drive to the nearest schoolBut the sale is interrupted by a cry for helpThe desperate man next door has just hanged himself from the ceiling fan, and as DeWitt tries to save his life, Watson cues the trumpets of Mark Lindsay’s rousing 1970 funk ballad “Arizona,” a salute to a hippie cowgirl who’s a ridiculous fraud. Cassie is six months late on her own mortgage, yet she tells her ex-husband Scott (Luke Wilson) that everything is just wonderfulNever mind that her daughter hates her, and her boss (Seth Rogen in an uncredited cameo) is a pig who orders her to “put those tits to work.” DeWitt is living in a light dramaThen McBride barges in wearing a green polo shirt and Miami Vice visor and muscles the movie towards slapstick. His Sonny enters angry, a sad sack lashing out at anyone who will listenHe doesn’t mean to become a killer, and once he does, his paranoia doesn’t escalate even though Luke Del Tredici’s script takes it as a givenHis showdowns with DeWitt seem to take place on two different planes of existenceThey’re both good actors in their own way: DeWitt is always excellent, and when he gets a chance, McBride has proven he can play a human, tooHere, however, he’s been directed to do his Danny McBride thing, a combustive mix of ego and idiocy that keeps his character from ever being scaryAt worst, he’s the kind of guy who will throw a beer bottle at a Chili’s restaurant and lose a screaming match with the manager. The character could work if Watson played up the satire“Arizona” takes a whack at a couple bigger ideas, like a drunk teen playing mailbox baseballAs Scott and his new girlfriend Kelsey (Elizabeth Gillies) get lost on their rescue mission and ask a gas station if he knows a gated community named Something Del Oro, the attendant notes that half of all the complexes in town are named Del Oro — and they don’t let Mexicans move inThe revelation of Sonny’s sliding gun safe, a museum-worthy exhibit of Second Amendment overkill, goes nowhereEven the entrance of Sonny’s estranged wife (a wickedly great Kaitlin Olson) has no dramatic impactIt just gets reduced to the punchline of her tacky Jeep, which boasts “Bad Bitch” on the windshield. That earns a chuckle, but the laughs never get louder than thatA climactic chase scene adheres so closely to the final-girl formula that DeWitt is forced to run around in her braWhy? The excuse is so inane, even McBride’s Sonny doesn’t buy itAs a debut film, “Arizona” shows that Watson could become a director with interesting ideas, but this housing crisis horror comedy is definitely just a rental. Sundance Film Review: 'Arizona' Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan26, 2018Running time: 85 MIN. Production: A Rough House Pictures, Imperative Entertainment production(International sales: Falco Ink, New York.) Producers: Danny McBride, Brandon James, Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Ryan FriedkinCo-producer: Ian WatermeierExecutive producers: David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, Gino Falsetto, Luke Del Tredici. Crew: Director: Jonathan WatsonScreenwriter: Luke Del TrediciCamera (color): Drew DanielsEditor: Jeff SeibenickMusic: Joseph Stephens. With: Danny McBride, Rosemarie DeWitt, Luke Wilson, Lolli Sorenson, Elizabeth Gillies, Kaitlin Olson. Leave a Reply Arizona Jonathan Watson Sundance Film Festival Want to read more articles like this one? Subscribe to Variety Today. JavaScript is required to load the comments. Loading comments... document.getElementById('comments-loading').style.display = 'block'; Most Viewed The Best and Worst Performances of Grammys 2018 Bruno Mars Caps Grammys Sweep With Album of the Year Win Grammys 2018: Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar Win Big; Jay-Z Shut Out Must Read Scene Photos: Grammy 2018 Red Carpet Arrivals TV Omarosa Manigault to Join ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ Film Box Office: ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ Sprints Past ‘Jumanji’ Sign Up for Breaking News Alerts Please fill out this field with valid email address. Sign Up More Film Korea Box Office: ‘Keys to the Heart,’ 'Coco' Hit Top Note Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 3 hours ago Sundance Film Review: 'A Kid Like Jake' Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 5 hours ago China Box Office: ‘Maze Runner’ and ‘Superstar’ Share Weekend Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 8 hours ago John Morris, 'Blazing Saddles' and 'Young Frankenstein' Composer, Dies at 91 Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 9 hours ago 'Three Billboards' Leads London Critics' Awards Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 10 hours ago Jennifer Hudson to Play Aretha Franklin In Biopic Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 11 hours ago Göteborg: Alicia Vikander - ‘In Acting You Learn All the Time’ Jonathan Watson’s spree killer horror film “Arizona” racks up bodies in a modern-day ghost town, an empty suburb in the fictional town of Harding, where the housing boom has just gone bustIt’s 2009, and real estate agent Cassie (Rosemary DeWitt) is peddling luxuries like whisper touch hinges and customized pools to buyers who know […] 11 hours ago More From Our Brands Footwear News All the Heel Heights on the Red Carpet at the 2018 Grammys 6 hours ago Deadline U2, Logic Stand Up For “Sh*thole” Countries During Grammy Performances 7 hours ago TVLine Grammys 2018: The 15 Best, Worst and Weirdest Moments 7 hours ago Indiewire ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Review: A Major Battle Is Won, But an Action-Packed Episode Reminds Us of the Real War 4 hours ago Variety About Us Careers Variety Screening Series Variety 411 Variety Insight Vscore Live Media Summits Legal Privacy Policy Terms of Use Your Privacy Rights Customer Service Variety Premier Variety Archives Variety Print Contact Us Account Login Subscribe Help ConnectInstagram Twitter YouTube Facebook The Business of Entertainment Subscribe Today

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