Monday, January 3, 2011

#21: Raising Arizona

In terms of box office returns, Raising Arizona could surely be termed as a success amongst the 14 movies the Coen Brothers ( True Grit excluded) have made in Hollywood. Considering that this was just their second movie after Blood Simple- itself a fantastic debut by the duo who believe in making movies revolving around hard hitting characters- there's good reason for them to have pretty happy with their effort in 1987. But since I saw the movie only in 2010, at the very outset, let me defend myself by saying that the following review is coming from a Coen Brothers devotee who had seen numerous gems from their stable including the likes of Fargo, Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou amongst others, before catching Raising Arizona.

With that out of the way, Raising Arizona as is their wont, is written, produced and directed by the Coen Brothers. Now, head chefs have their signature dishes, great batsmen have their signature shots and the Coen Brothers have their signature style of film-making that I will refer here as a Crimeody - yes, as lame as that might sound, I refer to the genre of a comedy within the genre of crime or vice-versa. It's something that has worked wonderfully for them through the years and the significance of Raising Arizona is that this was the first movie that the Coen Brothers tried their hand at this genre just christened by yours truly. Given the commercial success of the movie, they knew they had unearthed something special and soon that became their signature style that brought them numerous accolades in movies that they later made.

The movie is about a petty criminal H.I. ( Nicolas Cage) who robs grocery stores at gun point with guns that do not have any bullets in them. Ed ( Holly Hunter) is the police woman who is often assigned to take the mug shots of the criminals. She meets H.I. once too often during the discharge of her duties and soon enough that becomes a fertile ground for their wedlock. It is discovered a couple of years post their marriage that Ed is barren and won't be able to mother a child. Other options of getting a child are also ruled out and thus H.I. sets off to kidnap a baby for Ed. Both Cage and Hunter essay their characters commendably in what would count as subdued yet effective performances. As H.I.'s intents to get Ed a child come to fruition, more interesting characters come to the fore that make the movie worth a watch . And this is another Coen Brothers trademark- creating characters with such strong traits, idiosyncrasies and quirks that they will stick in your mind more than the story of the movie. The screenplay stays focussed on the chemistry between H.I. and Ed and while the warmth of their relationship is not really overplayed, it is something that does touch you during the movie.

The movie could've done with a slightly more quickened pace and some more definition for the character of Cage who is perennially shown as a just-off-the-bed-after-a-slumber kind of a guy. If not for Holly Hunter's dialogues in between, you could be forgiven for catching a few yawns during the movie. The movie also doesn't explain well certain incidents that lead to a bounty hunter catching up on the trail of H.I and Ed; sometimes considering you dumb enough as a viewer to play along with the direction that the movie is taking.

All in all, Raising Arizona is a nice watch but it could've been better because of the reasons I've mentioned above. But considering this was just their second movie, I guess they did well enough to make it watchable.

Rating: 6.2/10