‘Arkansas’ review: unapologetically derivative love letter to Quentin Tarantino

Death! Drugs! Violence! America! You'll find them all here

At once derivative and edgy, Arkansas is a southern-fried, drug cartel thriller that’s tailor-made for Quentin Tarantino nuts. Clark Duke, who directs and stars, is clearly a fan and has penned a love letter to QT which sees all guns blazing, fast-talking crooks swindle each other while the audience taps its feet to a catchy soundtrack.

Set in America’s Deep South, the film follows Kyle (Liam Hemsworth), a small-town criminal who gets promoted to a slightly bigger town where he and his partner in crime Swin (Duke) start working for a mysterious drug kingpin called Frog. They deal, drink and hang out before they freak out when things begin to go very wrong. Hemsworth and Duke are sporadically charismatic as the well-meaning but slightly dopey duo – and their lack of intelligence causes many of the film’s funniest moments.

The humour comes from other places too. Vivica A. Fox is effortlessly sophisticated as one of Frog’s proxies, and Tarantino fans will get a small thrill wondering if she remembers any moves from her stint in bloody assassin caper Kill Bill. Elsewhere, John Malkovich proves his unrivalled wit once again, with a drawl and pantomimic performance that adds plenty of charisma.

But the real standout here is Vince Vaughn, who plays Frog. He’s on top form as a man who runs everything from the shadows – and keeps his past firmly under wraps. His turn might feel less than jolly, but there’s still a light touch that stops things from turning into a sombre affair. Even with, you know, the death and drugs and all.

Arkansas
Vince Vaughan as drug kingpin Frog. Credit: Lionsgate

Despite the strong cast, Arkansas is mostly just recycled scenarios from better movies that fail to create much of an original impact when strung together. Arkansas both benefits and suffers from being released during the coronavirus pandemic. Its cheeky tone provides enough entertainment for your next socially distanced watch, but much like anything done during lockdown, this time next week you won’t remember it at all.

Details

  • Director: Clark Duke
  • Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, Clark Duke
  • Release date: July 13 (Digital)
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