Danny McBride Murders a Bunch of People in “Arizona”

Are you laughing yet?


If traditional comedy says “nothing is sacred,” too often black comedy says “everything is meaningless” and also “fuck you, Jack.” Every character is just the setup to a ghastly punchline, and the joke is on the audience. We attach to characters as a function of storytelling, and when their brains are splattered in the service of hilarity, the result is a mingled sense of horror and the feeling you’ve been punked.

Director Jonathan Watson’s super-violent Arizona is a well-done but chilly and essentially unlovable black comedy with one tiny spark of warmth — Rosemarie DeWitt’s performance as Cassie, a real estate broker who finds herself underwater financially after the 2006 housing market collapses. She’s a witness when Sonny (Danny McBride), another bankrupted homeowner, murders her horrible boss Gary (Seth Rogen).

In his haste to flee the scene, Sonny, a psychopathic knucklehead, knocks out Cassie and takes her to his house, a McMansion lost in a suburban Arizona wasteland of empty foreclosures. Watson cultivates a sense of isolation and dread as dimwit Sonny vacillates between murdering Cassie and forcing a promise that she won’t report him.

Screenwriter Luke Del Tredici’s best move is using the housing crash as a setting, and he peoples it with broad comedic stereotypes. The flatter the character, the more they’re like a paper target at a shooting range. As the kidnapping escalates to a series of brutal killings, Sonny murders his shrewish ex-wife (Kaitlin Olson), a hard-nosed cop (David Alan Grier), Cassie’s hapless ex (Luke Wilson), and a redneck subdivision guard, and even blows out the brains of a cute, heroic rottweiler as a visual gag. Life is meaningless. Fuck you, Jack.

Directed by Jonathan Watson
RLJE Films
Opens August 24, AMC 34th Street


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