Arkansas (2020)

Two men who became friends out of need end up dealing drugs for the mysterious Frog while under the cover of being apprentice-rangers. Soon things take a turn that leads then down a dark path.

Written by Andrew Boonkrong and Clarke Duke with Duke serving as director, Arkansas takes a familiar story, stretches it over a couple of hours, moves it to Arkansas (hence the title) and manages to make absolutely nothing entertaining out of it. Here the story has some twists and turns, but in most cases they are predictable or completely bland in execution. This means that the film and its story (which had potential) feel like an eternity with nothing worth noting happening. This makes for a watch that just is a time-passing event. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. There was some potential in this story, but the film is done in a manner where it all comes off as if they didn’t want to try and find the fun or find the side of the story that would grab the viewer. Instead, it’s just there, meandering through this drug dealer story without much interest.

In the lead is Liam Hemsworth who gives a good performance, creating a character that is not horrible to watch thankfully. His performance will keep some watching, for others, the lack of much else will make it feel like it’s an okay performance, but nothing to write home about. Overall, his work here is decent to really good, but it feels like he’s saddled with a stunted character who could have been so much more. Playing the other drug dealer and the one who gets to have a love interest is director Clarke Duke. His presence feels like he’s just there, going through the motions which may be due to having too much on his plate. A lot of the attempts at humor come from him and they almost all fall flat. The one shining ray of awesome in the cast is John Malkovich who plays the head ranger and gets far too little screen time. He is clearly having a boatload of fun and probably bringing his own flavor to his character of Bright. The rest of the cast are okay, Vince Vaughn is somewhat fun to watch, but manages to look bored for most of this time on screen, Vivica A. Fox is not given much to do besides give attitude which she does well, and Eden Brolin gives a performance that feels like it’s quirky for the sake of being quirky for more of the movie and ends up with a nice shot of emotion at the end (possibly the best part of the whole film as it has emotion, it gets to the viewer, it makes sense, and it doesn’t feel like she’s trying too hard).

The rest of the film becomes less important once the story is bland and the execution in terms of direction and performance just is kind of there. This means that not much else is noticeable. While the cinematography is ok, it’s not breathtaking, and while the costume design is fitting, it’s not exactly grabbing the attention in anyways. Arkansas is a film that is just kind of there, without much excitement, its split in chapters, but it doesn’t really do anything for the story. Hemsworth gives a good performance, and Malkovich is fun as usual, but the rest of the film is utterly unmemorable. As an movie watching experience, it feels bland and uninspired on almost all levels, which is unfortunate as Malkovich is a hoot.