April 30, 2020

SCREEN | Liam Hemsworth and Clark Duke Escape 'Arkansas'

"Relying on other people is the fastest way to end up dead."
Liam Hemsworth John Malkovich Clark Duke | Arkansas
Lionsgate
Actor/comedian Clark Duke makes his directorial debut in the southern fried indie crime thriller named after the titular "Natural State" and based on the novel by James Brandon. Arkansas proves to be a slickly made potboiler that shows off the understated talent of its recognizable cast and crew.

Aussie Liam Hemsworth stars as a low-level but very competent drug runner in what's probably the best showcase of his work as a leading man thus far. He is buddied up with Duke on the road before an expected but unfortunate turn of events sets them off to clean up a mess not of their making but could be their undoing.

Vince Vaughn as an mysterious drug kingpin named "Frog" offers a neat foil to the other characters with his stoic calmness while John Malkovich hams it up as another unsavoury cohort. It's a uniformly interesting cast that feeds into Hemsworth and Duke's offbeat but inviting chemistry alongside Eden Brolin as their third wheel.

Written by Andrew Boonkrong and Duke, their script takes most of the usual, somewhat expected turns but manages to twist the well-worn beats of most downhome criminal misadventures with a knowing charm and reverence for the appealing genre. Everything is particularly heightened by the suspenseful accompanying music composed by The Flaming Lips.

Duke makes Arkansas a fairly involved thriller and impressive debut. It has a controlled but familiar structure that revels in a purposeful messiness. Hemsworth's subdued but dynamic performance really grounds the picture with serious thrills.

Arkansas will be available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand starting May 1st.


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