Posted by: ckckred | February 8, 2013

Raising Arizona

First off in my Coen brothers marathon is their second film

First off in my Coen brothers marathon is their second film

The year was 1987.  Back then the Coen brothers were relatively unknown directors and Nic Cage still had a good casting agent.  The two united and produced a movie, with the result being one of the funniest and quirkiest off-beat comedies ever made, Raising Arizona.

It’s been a while since I last saw Raising Arizona and I was worried it might have not lived up to memory.  However, that was not the case.  Raising Arizona was just as funny as I remembered it to be and it remains one of the many reasons why I think the Coen brothers are two of the best directors ever.  Raising Arizona has many of the Coens’ many trademarks and surely is an influence for their later movies.  It’s also been a great inspiration for comedy(the TV series My Name is Earl bore great resemblance to this), and its comic approach is unlike any other, with a rapid style joke per minute.

The movie is about a small time burglar named H. I. (Cage), who has been imprisoned more times than anyone could imagine.  He falls in love with a police officer named Ed (Holly Hunter) and the two eventually get married and movie into a trailer park.  H. I. cleans up and works at a machine shop while Ed continues to work at the police station.  Eventually the two want to have children but they soon discover Ed can’t conceive and since it’s hard to adopt a child with H. I.’s criminal record, they decide to steal a baby from Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), whose wife recently had five new children (which resulted from Nathan taking fertility drugs).

From there on, the plot gets even absurder, wilder, and even funnier.  Two of H. I.’s friends, Gale (Coen brothers’ regular John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe), come over to the new family after escaping jail and Ed tries to have H. I. get along with her friends Glen (Sam McMurray) and Dot (Frances McDormand), a swinger couple.  Meanwhile, Nathan puts out an award for the missing baby and a bounty hunter who looks like he comes from the apocalypse (Randall “Tex” Cobb) attempts the catch the criminals.

No one could come up with a story like this other than the Coens, who stylize the movie perfectly.  The two offer up more gags and jokes than anyone could.  The movie reflects the blue collar life of Arizona through the scenery and eye candy, like the Seven Elevens and trailer parks, plus the soundtrack by Carter Burwell helps bring up a giddy mood to the picture.  Barry Sonnenfield’s cinematography also helps lighten the mood of what could be a dark concept.  The movie is full of Coen-ish, exaggerated accents and hilariously clever and witty banter.  The odd idiosyncrasies of the characters, like H. I.’s wild haircut, are funny enough as it is.  The movie’s best scene is a chase sequence where H. I. is pursued by the police and a group of angry dogs after a failed robbery at a convenient store.

The performances also really help carry the film together.  Cage is especially great as H. I. and gives the role a maniacal, cartoon edge.  In recent years he’s really hurt his career but back in the late 80s and 90s, Cage could really act.  Hunter is fantastic in her role as well and since when has a John Goodman character in a Coen brothers movie ever been bad?  He’s great as well.

Though I feel that the Coens’ later movies are more polished, this still remains one of their highlights in their career.  An effective comedy that never loses its edge, Raising Arizona is a true comic gem.



  1. Good start to the Coen movie extravaganza!! This film is great and Cage is in fine form here.

    • Thanks! It remains one of the Coens’ most effective films and has one of Cage’s best performances.

  2. Yeah, youre totally spot on here CK, this is a quirky comedy as only the Coens could deliver. 😀 Love it. Cage was great back then, too.

    • Thanks! RA still is one of the Coens’ best movies. It also reminds me how great of an actor Cage used to be…

  3. Great review, can’t wait to read your other Coen Brother’s posts.

    • Thanks! I’m planning on reviewing Miller’s Crossing or The Big Lebowski soon.

  4. Ahhh, I need to watch this again. I remember loving it (also I totally have a crush on Holly Hunter because of the way she talks, it’s so incredibly sexy and that was probably TMI…)…

    • It’s a great movie and Holly Hunter’s pretty good in it. Thanks for commenting.

  5. I saw this for the first time on the big screen last summer. Loved it. Absolutely ridiculous but so much fun. Great writeup, man.

    • Thanks! I would love to see this in a theater. No one can make movies as maniacally fun as the Coens.

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