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Vowing to go straight, a convenience store banditt (Nicolas Cage) proposes marriage to the police departments photographer (Holly Hunter). All is wedded bliss until they discover she's unable to get pregnant and are turned down by every adoption agency in town. It does not take long before they realize the only solution is to kidnap one of the town's celebrated quintuplets and hit the road!
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Cage plays H.I. McDunnough, a career criminal who has a penchant for robbing convenience stores, along with getting caught. During his various incarcerations he falls for, and eventually marries, a police officer named Edwina aka Ed (Hunter) and the pair move into a starter home (a trailer) while H.I. goes on the straight and narrow, taking on a respectable job. Things go well, that is until the couple learns, while trying to start a family, that they can't have a baby due to the fact Ed's `insides were a rocky place where H.I.'s seed could find no purchase'. Not only that but adoption isn't an option, given H.I.'s checked past. As despair over their situation sets in, the couple learns of a local businessman named Nathan Arizona (Wilson), `the owner of the largest chain of unpainted furniture and bathroom fixtures throughout the southwest', and how his wife just gave birth to quintuplets. From disparity comes a plan to snatch one of the babies and raise it as their own, the thought being perhaps Arizona and his wife have more than they can handle, and won't miss one too much. They snatch the baby and return home, only to soon be visited by a couple of H.I.'s jailbird buddies, the brothers Gale (Goodman) and Evelle (Forsythe) Snoats, who've recently effectuated themselves an early release from prison. Matters are further complicated as H.I. loses his job and soon finds himself reverting back to his old, criminal ways (seems Gale and Evelle are planning a bank job, and want H.I. in on the heist). Eventually things come to a head as a large, dirty, greasy, hairy bounty hunter aka the warthog from hell named Leonard Smalls (Cobb) makes the scene, his intent being to collect the child by any means necessary.
This is one of those movies where everything works in terms of the writing, dialog, direction, performances, casting, and so on...the best aspect, in my opinion, is the unique writing as there's a ton of quotable lines from the film, a few of my favorites listed below (for context on most, you'll just have to see the film)...
`Son, you got a panty on yer head.'
`Now, what's it gonna be young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground? Cause if'n I freeze, I can't rightly drop. And if'n I drop, I'm gonna be in motion.'
`Anyone found bipedal in five wears his a** for a hat!'
And then, of course, there's the classic line that comes as Nathan Arizona, after the abduction, is being questioned by local, state, and federal authorities. At one point someone asks him what the baby was wearing at the time of the abduction and Arizona replies, in an agitated state, `I don't know - they were jammies! They had Yodas'n s**t on 'em!'...and there's a lot more where that came from...something else, what makes the dialog work as well as it does is the delivery, not only by the main performers but also by the supporting cast members. Both Cage and Hunter are excellent in their roles, as are Goodman and Forsythe as the criminally dimwitted, slovenly Snoats, and Trey Wilson, as Nathan Arizona. Frances McDormand also does very well as the wife of H.I.'s boss, but know her role is fairly small, at least compared to her part in the Coen Brothers' Fargo (1996), for which she ended up earning her an Academy Award. I also really liked Randall 'Tex' Cobb in his role, which presented him more as a malevolent force of nature rather than your average, on screen villain. As far as the direction, I thought it was done extremely well, especially during the opening sequences prior to the opening credits, which sets up a lot in a relatively short amount of time, and subsequently sets the tone well for the rest of the film. There are so many great scenes throughout the film but the one that comes to my mind is a short one, and features Gale and Evelle, who've absconded with the baby after learning his true identity, as they stop at a gas station/convenience store to pick up supplies. Evelle's interaction with the store attendant in terms of diapers, balloons, and whatnot, is worth the price of admission alone. All in all this is an extremely funny, entertaining, and even thoughtful film, and one definitely worth owning as, if you're like me, you'll most likely watch it more than once.
The picture, presented in widescreen (1.85:1), on this DVD is very clean and clear, and the Dolby Digital Surround audio, available in English and French, comes through very well. There's really not much in terms of extras, except for an original theatrical trailer, subtitles in English and Spanish, three television spots, and previews for a couple of other Coen Brothers releases including Barton Fink (1991) and Miller's Crossing (1990). Actually, I'm somewhat surprised, at the time this review was written, that a newer DVD release of this film, one packed with extras, including a commentary or two, has yet to come out, but perhaps we'll see one sometime in the near future.
An early Coen Brothers classic film.