- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by David Medsker
he catch with making a movie like “Blood Simple” is that everyone wants you to make it again, and again, and again. History has since shown that the Coen brothers are not fond of doing anything twice, so while it now makes perfect sense that they would choose to follow “Simple” with a batshit crazy comedy, no one saw it coming at the time, and how could they? No one had made a movie like “Raising Arizona” since…well, has anyone made a movie quite like “Raising Arizona”? With enough quirk to give Diablo Cody a seizure and plunging greater emotional depths than all of Judd Apatow’s movies combined, “Raising Arizona” should have its own sub-category in the screwball genre.
Nicolas Cage is H.I. McDunnough, a career criminal (and a poor one at that), who wins the heart of prison officer Edwina (Holly Hunter) and, upon his release, vows to live an honest life if she’ll marry him. She agrees, and the two try to start a family, but Ed receives the devastating news from her doctor that she is “barren.” Adoption is no option on account of H.I.’s criminal record, so when H.I. and Ed learn that local businessman Nathan Arizona (the late, great Trey Wilson) and his wife just had quintuplets, they decide that the Arizonas have more than they can handle and take one of them for their own. H.I. loses his job soon after, and quickly falls back into a life of crime in order to support the family. Worse, H.I.’s prison buddies Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) fly the coop and decide to set up shop at his house, much to Ed’s chagrin.
Some people will point to “The French Connection,” “Ronin” or “The Bourne Identity,” but for our money “Raising Arizona” boasts the best chase sequence in movie history. Between the gun-toting store clerks, the cop, the dogs and the screaming shoppers – all scored to yodeling bluegrass music – with Cage running through it all as if he’s on a morning jog, the chase is 16 different flavors of crazy. Holly Hunter’s subsequent rant after she picks up Cage (how she knew where to find Cage, though, is a mystery) is even funnier, as she reminds him that “everything’s chayyyyyynged!” now that they have a child. One of the beauties of the movie is that each character runs at a different speed. For every Ed and Nathan Arizona (high-strung), there is an H.I., or a Gale, and then there is Leonard Smalls (Randall “Tex” Cobb), the ruthless bounty hunter who also happens to be the most soft-spoken of anyone in the movie.
The movie’s third act is an odd one, though. H.I. gets the snot kicked out of him both literally and figuratively, and as the movie wraps up, it’s unclear whether H.I. and Ed’s marriage will last the ordeal. That’s a strange way to end any movie, never mind one that spent the previous 75 minutes as a gonzo comedy. Still, for as many ways as the story could have gone, it’s the right ending, jarring shift in tone or not. The Coens would get better at tying everything together in later movies, and while they bit off slightly more than they could chew here, you have to admire the fearlessness of the Coens to make their first comedy something as delightfully nutty as “Raising Arizona.”