Raising Arizona [1987]

Blood Simple made it clear that the cinematically precocious Coen brothers (writer-director Joel and writer-producer Ethan) were gifted filmmakers to watch out for. But it was the outrageously farcical Raising Arizona that announced the Coens' darkly comedic audacity to the world. It wasn't widely seen when released in 1987, but its modest audience was vocally supportive, and this hyperactive comedy has since developed a large and loyal following. It's the story of "Ed" (for Edwina, played by Holly Hunter), a policewoman who falls in love with "Hi" (for H.I. McDonnough, played by Nicolas Cage) while she's taking his mug shots. She's infertile and he's a habitual robber of convenience stores, and their folksy marital bliss depends on settling down with a rug rat. Unable to conceive, they kidnap one of the newsworthy quintuplets born to an unpainted-furniture huckster named Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), who quickly hires a Harley-riding mercenary (Randall "Tex" Cobb) to track the baby's whereabouts. What follows is a full-throttle comedy that defies description, fueled by the Coens' lyrical redneck dialogue, the manic camerawork of future director Barry Sonnenfeld, and some of the most inventively comedic chase scenes ever filmed. Some will dismiss the comedy for being recklessly over-the-top; others will love it for its clever mix of slapstick action, surreal fantasy, and homespun family values. One thing's for sure--this is a Coen movie from start to finish, and that makes it undeniably unique. --Jeff Shannon

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