HOLLYWOOD─Smart, exciting, riveting are just a few words I can use to describe the movie “Arkansas” which turned out to be a delightful surprise in a theater-less movie going experience for the past couple of weeks. I have seen plenty of movies dedicated to the world of drugs. The operations that happen behind the scenes, the glitz and glamour of the business and the dark and dirty things that transpire that can haunt one for ages.
The dramedy stars Liam Hemsworth as Kyle Ribb. Kyle is a drug dealer, who works for a guy that he has never met, whose name is Frog (Vince Vaughn). We have seen both Hemsworth and Vaughn attempt to departure those goody too shoe and comedy gold characters that they have become typecast for. In Vaughn’s case, he has truly turned over a leaf playing darker characters than what he did when he first dove into the acting world.
Vaughn immerses himself into a character, who does not appear threatening at first glance, but cross the guy and you will see how cutthroat and ruthless he can be. It is indeed an acting accomplishment for Vaughn to portray such a meaty and layered villain. On the flipside, we have Hemsworth, who is known for his looks. There is a bit of scruff with this character, but the look alone doesn’t sell the part. Hemsworth doesn’t fail at portraying the character, but he also doesn’t know it out of the part to where it leaves the viewer speechless about his performance.
Along for the ride with Hemsworth and Vaughn is a host of supporting players, including Kyle sidekick Swin (Clark Duke). Duke takes on many roles for this film, also serving as its writer, director and producer, in addition to starring in the picture. Kyle and Swin are buddies who find themselves entangled in a drug infused, bloody thrill ride. That is what really sells “Arkansas” in my opinion.
The movie has an enthralling narrative where twists and turns surprise the audience as we ultimately reach the climax. Supporting players added to the drama include fun turns by Vivica Fox, John Malkovich and Michael Kenneth Williams. Let’s be clear this movie has violence, but it’s not excessive to the degree of “Casino,” “Goodfellas” or let’s say “Scarface,” where the world of drugs could be perceived as too dark or scarier than reality itself.
There are subtle punches to the spectator, but enough to immerse you in this cross-country tale that kicks off in Arkansas, moves to Corpus Christi, Louisiana and other states in the South. You could make the argument this is a road trip involving drugs that treks throughout the country where some shady dealing unfold, people who the audience ‘thinks’ they know, are not who they appear to be and there is a trail of blood along the way courtesy of Kyle, Swin and Frog.
The narrative finds a way to push the viewer to connect with our core characters, each seeing something distinctly in them rather a flaw or a strength that we identify with. “Arkansas” was a riveting ride that shined a different light of the drug world that is not always shown in the spotlight.