Saturday, 16 April 2016
Movie Review: Raising Arizona (1987)
Herbert "Hi" McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) can't drive past a convenience store without thinking of holding it up. Since he never uses live ammunition, he receives a succession of short prison sentences. Every time he is arrested he catches sight of booking officer Edwina, known simply as Ed (Holly Hunter). He finally times it right, proposes and marries her on one of his stints outside the jail cell. Hi and Ed settle down to a life of crime-free domesticity, but soon find out that she cannot conceive, and Ed slumps into an aggravated state of depression.
When the media announce that discount furniture king Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) and his wife Florence have given birth to quintuplets, Hi and Ed decide that the Arizonas have more children than they can handle, and they go ahead and steal one of the infants. They try to create a true family unit, but uncouth prison escapees and brothers Gale and Evelle Snoats (John Goodman and William Forsythe) invite themselves and disrupt the peace. Soon Hi's boss Glen (Sam McMurray), his wife Dot (Frances McDormand) and their brood of unruly children add to the chaos, while heavily armed demon Leonard Smalls (Randall "Tex" Cobb), also known as the lone biker of the apocalypse, starts to track down the missing baby to claim the reward money.
Halfway through, the Coen's conjure up a 10 minute sequence of pure farce that deserves a pedestal in the comedy hall of fame. Hi cannot fight the urge to rob a late-night market, but now something of a dad, his target is a free bag of Huggies diapers. What follows is a nutty chase involving a police squad car, gun-toting store clerks, a pack of excited dogs, a simpleton of a pick-up driver, with a furious Ed and her infant in the car burning rubber and wondering whether Hi deserves to be abandoned or rescued.
Other highlights include Glen and Dot's children running riot, while every scene that features motorcyclist Leonard Smalls exudes hysterically mythical evil on two wheels, one step away from dishing out destruction to any living thing.
Beneath all the madness is a tale of unlikely love, Hi and Ed acting on an undeniable attraction and desperate to settle down to a simple life and just build a family. Through thick and thin they stand by each other, sort of, and baby Arizona gives them a new purpose and an opportunity to view each other through a fresh lens. Even the ammunition-free robber and the nerdy small town ex-cop deserve their opportunity to pursue happiness.
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