Film review: Arkansas
PUBLISHED: 12:57 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:57 08 July 2020
Strong performances in a seedy tale of Deep South drug dealing that strips away any glamour for the criminal underworld
Clark Duke, known to me mainly as the sidekick in the Kick Ass movies, here moves into the realms of the hyphenates, co-writing, directing and starring in this tale of deep South drug-dealing folk, adapted from a book by John Brandon.
What he saw in Arkansas was another crime thriller that is a comment on the inequities of the American Dream and a debunking of the cinematic fiction of honourable thieves.
Organised crime in the South is not; it’s simply, “a loose affiliation of deadbeats and scumbags.”
Hemsworth is a low level dealer who gets an an accidental promotion and has to work with Duke under Malkovich, whose overacting ought to have been criminal enough to attract unwanted police attention. They are part of a crime syndicate headed up by the mysterious Frog, an individual nobody knows the identity of.
A sensible professional precaution, but when a deal goes badly wrong the lack of a trustworthy line manager to report to leads to mayhem.
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The numpty chorus on IMBD are largely unimpressed by the film, condemning it as a slow-moving Tarantino rip off. Granted everybody seems more elegantly loquacious than they would be in real life, but the film has an unforced poignancy and insight, that is uncommon. It may not be anything you haven’t seen before, but its stripping away of the glamour and allure of the thug life is more effective than most other films in the genre.
A character reflects on how he wanted to opt-out of the conventional lifestyle but has ended up as another wage slave, tied down by responsibilities.
That said, it does still have a very conventional leading man role: Hemsworth is extremely comfortable playing the kind of strong, silent, resourceful loner that has been a Hollywood staple since the silent days.
The non-Avenger Hemsworth has a Milliband moment here, suddenly emerging from the shadow of his better-known brother.
Malkovich aside, all the performances are strong and Vince Vaughn has probably never been better. Like the film as a whole, it is about stripping away the layers of crime’s surface glamour to reveal the fear and insecurity beneath, and he does it beautifully.
Directed by Clark Duke. Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Vince Vaughn, Eden Brolin, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Kenneth Williams and John Malkovich.
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