At first sight, Arizona (2018) seems like any other action thriller. However the message behind the movie goes far deeper than expected, the insights nearly as tragic and dark as its humour.

The main story line of the film starts in 2009, when the real estate housing crisis just hits the entire United States with all its might, destroying countless financial existences and futures. The crash had its origin in the unprecedented growth of the subprime mortgage. The program was started around 1999 with the idea being that it would help everyone attain the “American dream” of a home. In theory, it sounded like a good plan to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Decent Work and Economic Growth.

A long line outside an open house in Belleville, New Jersey, photo taken by Karsten Moran. Image courtesy of The New York Times.

Unfortunately, in this case the U.S. government sponsored mortgage lenders made home loans accessible to borrowers who had a low credit score and a higher risk of defaulting on loans. Financial firms then sold large pools of these loans to big commercial investors. As a result, this process built a massive framework that ultimately fell apart when borrowers were defaulting on their mortgages in high numbers. Consequently, the stock market collapsed, leading not only to the beginning of the global Great Recession, but also making innumerable people lose their financial security and homes overnight.

The consequences were horrendous. Nearly 10 million home owners in America were forced to sell or give up their homes for nearly nothing. On top of the financial aspect of the crisis, many people suffered severe emotional damage, with a 2014 study showing a correlation between the housing crisis and the increase of the suicide rate.

Theatrical release poster for Arizona (2018), dir. Jonathan Watson. Image courtesy of IMDb.

With this background information in mind, the entry scene of Arizona leaves a bitter aftertaste, as the film’s main character, realtor Cassie Fowler (played by Rosemarie DeWitt) finds a woman who is desperately trying to get her nearly dead husband off a fan in their former home after he tried to hang himself.

It is at this moment where the audience gets introduced to the storyline. After this shocking scene, which makes the viewer smile when the man survives the suicide attempt, only to take a sharp turn when he is killed shortly afterwords by the very fan on which he tried to hang himself. The second main character, Sonny (played by Danny McBride) appears in the picture, as the now raging house owner who kills Cassie’s boss in a rage, while Cassie witnesses the whole crime from her desk. This crime then turns into an wild chase through an almost extinct small town settlement in Nevada.

It would not do justice to the movie to analyse every single scene of the film written by Luke Del Tredici. However, this brief introduction to the absurdity of the story can hereby be seen as a taste of the film for those who have not watched it in its entirety.

Directed by Jonathan Watson, Arizona is part of a series of movies addressing the crisis creating a new subgenre of horror and thriller combined with comedy. This bizarre combination is nearly perfect to actually cover this tragic and bizarre era of global financial history, as it is able to communicate the horror and pain that the victims were going through, the comedic content echoing the extreme and horrendous lengths to which people who have nothing to lose anymore are willing to go.

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