Danny McBride is at his funniest and scariest in “Arizona,” a darkly comic film noir that works well as both a violent thriller and as a ruthless satire of over-extended American dreamers.
Set just after the devastating 2008 collapse of the real estate market, “Arizona” also stars Rosemarie DeWitt as Cassie Fowler, a divorced single mother struggling to sell upscale suburban homes, while barely making enough money to keep her own. McBride plays Sonny, an equally cash-strapped client, who accidentally kills Cassie’s boss (Seth Rogen), then kidnaps her.
Sonny’s mistakes keep mounting — and the body count keeps rising — as Cassie angles for a way to get back to her teenage daughter. Throughout the deadly game of cat-and-mouse, these two occasionally cross paths with other distressed individuals, including Cassie’s ex (played by Luke Wilson), Sonny’s ex (Kaitlin Olson) and an unhelpful cop (David Alan Grier).
Director Jonathan Watson and screenwriter Luke Del Tredici get good visual mileage out of these million-dollar ghost towns, filled with abandoned houses and just a few remaining people, all of whom — including the security guards — are broke and self-deluded.
“Arizona” might have had more punch a decade ago. But it’s not like the arrogance it depicts began and ended in the 2000s. That’s what makes McBride’s performance so brilliant. As Sonny, he nails the particular sense of entitlement that leads folks to spend money they don’t have — and then huffing and puffing when the bill comes due.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Starts Aug. 24, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica