One to Watch: Raising Arizona (1987)
Treat yourself to a Nic Cage classic this weekend…
Raising Arizona stars Cage as H.I. “Hi” McDunnough, a recently-released career criminal who elopes with police officer Edwina (Holly Hunter) to start a family together. When the couple learn that Ed is infertile – and that Hi’s criminal past rules out adoption as an alternate route to parenthood – they hatch a plan to steal a baby from a set of quintuplets born to a wealthy local businessman.
Directed by Joel Coen (at least in the credits), produced by Ethan Coen and co-written by them both, the film helped to establish the brothers as the cinematic heavyweights they are today. Under a different creative team, the kidnapping-based plot may have made for a tense watch – but in the Coens’ hands, what we get is a crime caper that’s entertaining and charming in equal measure.
In spite of all of its ridiculous, madcap humour, Raising Arizona’s best feature is how it wears its heart on its sleeve
The duo employ an idiosyncratic tone, amping up the unpredictability of the desolate southwestern setting and populating it with larger-than-life characters – an approach that runs through their subsequent work and would go on to influence Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan.
The performances throughout are suitably cartoonish, with an unhinged Cage being let loose and utilised to his fullest, and a scene where Hi is reprimanded by Ed for robbing a jumbo pack of Huggies at gunpoint is a side-splitting highlight.
Yet, in spite of all of its ridiculous, madcap humour, Raising Arizona’s best feature is how it wears its heart on its sleeve. The 90-minute wonder concludes with a predictably bittersweet yet nonetheless touching finale that celebrates how, in the boundless world of fiction, a baby can be raised by outlaws, chased by bounty-hunters and maybe even be a little better off for it. It makes no logical sense, but hits you where it counts all the same.