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Arkansas - Movie Review

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Arkansas

Originally scheduled to premiere at this year’s SXSW Festival before setting out on a limited theatrical run, Arkansas, the new film from star, co-writer, and director Clark Duke (The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine), finds itself taking a different path, of sorts, as it goes straight to home video due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent theater closings.

"there’s enough scuzziness, loose morals, graphic violence, and questionable ethics to shoot Arkansas straight to the top of your stay-at-home quarantine playlist"


 

That’s a bit of a shame too, because the film features a star-studded cast and comes from a fresh new voice in the filmmaking world in Duke who makes his directing debut with Arkansas. Though not without its faults, this gritty, satirical comedy thriller about the Dixie Mafia drug trade in the Deep South deserves a much bigger audience than it is likely to get on the VOD circuit.

Based on John Brandon’s best-selling book of the same name, the film’s script is written by Duke along with Andrew Boonkrong and shows occasional flashes of brilliance as we’re constantly reminded of Tarantino, Scorcese, and even the Coen Brothers. Despite its lofty influences, Arkansas is too often hobbled by its own unique brand of satirical irony that misses its intended mark more often than it hits and never bites quite as hard as it should.

This slow burn of a cautionary tale stars Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games films) as Kyle and Duke as Swin, a pair of low-level drug runners who live under the orders of an Arkansas drug kingpin named Frog (Vince Vaughn, Swingers) whom neither has even met. {googleads}

Posing as local park rangers by day, they run their drug racket though a loosely wound web of hangers-on and ne’er do wells under the watchful eye of Frog’s intermediaries, Ranger Bright (John Malcovich, Rounders) and Her (Vivica A. Fox, Independence Day).

When Swin breaks one of the network’s cardinal rules by striking up a relationship with one of the locals (Eden Brolin), their close-knit, tightly-run little network begins to teeter as Frog mistakenly sees them as a threat to his drug empire. Fraught with violence, murder, deceit, and mistaken identity, there’s plenty for everyone to like, but bewere: never make the mistake of getting comfortable with what you think you know about Arkansas, as there are plenty of sinister twists and turns to keep us all on our toes.

The deep cast, which also features The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams is always excellent and Duke, as director, is equally up to the task by ensuring that each of his characters gets plenty of spotlight to shine; a difficult task to pull off, especially for a first time director.Arkansas

Despite sharing nearly every scene together, Hemsworth and Duke never quite click together as a pair and neither is particularly likable. In addition, their relationships with some of the other characters are “off” and don’t feel convincingly genuine, yet each cast member takes advantage of the screen time given and all create a nice ensemble of memorable, lived-in characters – another coup for Duke.

But where Arkansas (Duke’s home state) finds its stride is in its offbeat quirkiness featuring a five-act structure that juggles its goofy characters and mixes up criss-crossing timelines in a meandering road trip soup right out of the Joel and Ethan Coen playbook. If only Duke and Boonkrong could have tapped into a more penetrating brand of satirical humor to take a deeper bite out of the heart of Dixie.

With its ensemble cast of A-list actors and a bash!t crazy story that plays out like a modern-day western, there’s enough scuzziness, loose morals, graphic violence, and questionable ethics to shoot Arkansas straight to the top of your stay-at-home quarantine playlist.

3/5 stars

Arkansas

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor:
Available on Blu-ray

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Arkansas

MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, drug material and brief nudity.
Runtime:
117 mins
Director
: Clark Duke
Writer:
Clark Duke; Andrew Boonkrong
Cast:
Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, Clark Duke
Genre
: Drama | Crime
Tagline:
Kyle and Swin are working their way to the top...but the top has other plans.
Memorable Movie Quote: ""
Theatrical Distributor:
Lionsgate
Official Site: http://www.storyboard.film/portfolio/arkansas/
Release Date:
May 5, 2020
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 5, 2020.
Synopsis: Kyle and Swin live by the orders of an Arkansas-based drug kingpin named Frog, whom they've never met. But when a deal goes horribly wrong, the consequences are deadly.

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Arkansas

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