Arkansas

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Eden Brolin, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Vivica A Fox.

Directed By: Clark Duke

Where I Watched it: Amazon

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

The Plot: Described by IMDB as a “crime thriller”, two young drug dealers (Hemsworth/Duke) caught up in a rather disorganized crime system find themselves trapped by the rules set up by their top boss, Frog (Vaughn), a man they haven’t met, who moves their home base so they work under a new lieutenant (Malkovich), which just makes them want more out of their lives

What Works: I like the cast. I’ve always been a Clark Duke fan, all the way back to Greek, so it was nice to see him behind the directors chair. That’s what initially drew me to this random title. As far as my love for the rest of the cast, my feelings on John Malkovich is that he’s one of the greatest living actors, and keeps getting thrown roles that do nothing for him. Every year, he should be in the Oscar running, instead of in whatever crumbs keep getting dropped in his path. I also love Vince Vaughn, both dramatically and comedically. Michael Kenneth Williams (RIP) was a brilliant actor cut down too soon. And I actually think Liam Hemsworth has enough charisma to carry a film, he just keeps picking the wrong projects. So in general, I like this cast. And in general, they all seem to be getting offered crap nowadays.

With the exception of Duke and Fox, I thought the cast did good work. They weren’t given much, but they muddled their way through something that was murky to begin with. I suppose that’s something. I’ve seen worse films, and while I’m certain that 10 yers from now I’ll struggle to remember anything about this film, I did like how Duke chose to have these people repeating the same set of rules. It’s like it was something passed down from generation to generation, something that happens a lot in this region.

I’m trying to find more good things, but all I can say is that this film isn’t terrible, it’s likely just derivative, and unnecessary.

What Doesn’t Work: I don’t know what Clark Duke saw in this film that made him want to direct and star in this. I know that actors sometimes hate being pigeonholed into a type, but this was so uncomfortably not a Clark Duke role. I couldn’t take him seriously, despite my enjoyment for what he does as an actor outside of this film. This just didn’t work. his accent wasn’t very good, he never felt like someone who would do the things he’s doing, or be where he is. It’s not transformative at all, it’s more fish out of water. Also, Vivica A Fox couldn’t hold onto that accent if her life depended on it.

The accents in this film almost feel like an after thought, because they seem to wander at times, and really aren’t nearly as deeply Arkansas-Ian as one would assume. I know they try to give Duke a pass by writing into his character that he is college educated, and originally from Kentucky, but since that’s never relevant to the plot, it feels like it was an excuse for Duke to do less work to embody his character.

Also, there’s this unspoken rule in films with genre’s like this that are attempting any sort of mystery. If a major character is killed off camera, and you didn’t see it happen, it’s probable that it didn’t. So it was disappointing to realize that a major character does actually die off camera, in a film that already featured several acts of violence prior to that scene. Why cut that one out?

i don’t understand nor do I believe structuring the story in chapters was necessary. You could have done this without chapters, and the film would have been the same. There’s no need for those chapter breaks at all.

And finally, this film has a metric ton of producers. Regular, Executive, Associate, and Co-producers. It really made me think “this film had to be crowd funded because no film actually needs or has this many producers.” It didn’t really affect my grade, but it did remind me that through things like Kickstarter, you can now buy your way into film credits.

The Blind Perspective: Another audio description coming out of Amazon that no one claimed. And yes, I did bother to use the resources at my fingertips to try and find out who narrated this. Honestly, the narration itself was fine, it just isn’t balanced well. The audio track sometimes is louder and causes the films audio to drop back when it plays. I’m not sure any thought was put into this, and it was just slapped on. I think this is a real person though, so that’s a win. It just isn’t mixed properly, and that might annoy some viewers.

Otherwise, I was able to follow the audio description just fine, and I understood the film.

Final Thoughts: Now I’m disappointed, because i was really excited to see Clark Duke knock one out of the park, but now I’m convinced he’s not meant for directing. I won’t be as quick to click on his next project. This was ill conceived, miscast, and somewhat lazily assembled with not a lot of thought or TLC put into things like making the film interesting or different, or challenging similar projects like Ozark and making something better. instead, we got a film with a bunch of talented actors who really needed a win, trapped inn accents they can’t seem to manage to sustain, in a film that goes nowhere you haven’t been before. And why does every character in this film have a stupid name? is that a requirement of being a drug dealer in Arkansas? Frog? Her? Almond? What is going on? And who out there is still naming their kids Sven, and do they live in Kentucky? I have questions, but they’re not the ones I should be having if this film was good.

Final Grade: C-

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