Raising Arizona (1987)


Raising Arizona is a 1987 comedy film directed by the Coen Brothers and starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, William Forsythe, John Goodman, Frances McDormand and Randall "Tex" Cobb. Not a blockbuster at the time of its release, it has since achieved cult status. In typical Coen Brothers fare, the movie is replete with symbolism, visual gags, yodeling folk music, unconventional characters, flamboyant camera work, pathos, and idiosyncratic dialogue. The film ranked #31 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Laughs and #45 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies."


Criminal Herbert I. "Hi" McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) and policewoman Edwina "Ed" (Holly Hunter) meet after she takes the mugshots of the recidivist. With continued visits, Hi learns that Ed's fiancé has left her. Hi proposes to her after his latest release from prison, and the two get married. They move into a desert mobile home, and Hi gets a job in a machine shop. They want to have children, but Ed discovers that she is infertile, and find they are unable to adopt due to Hi's criminal record. The couple learns of the "Arizona Quints," sons of locally famous furniture magnate Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson); Hi and Ed kidnap one of the five babies, whom they believe to be Nathan Junior. Hi and Ed return home and are soon visited by Hi's prison buddies, Gale and Evelle Snoats (John Goodman and William Forsythe), who have just broken out. Under the brothers' influence, Hi is tempted to revert to his felonious ways. Their problems get worse when Hi's supervisor, Glen (Sam McMurray), proposes wife swapping which results in Hi assaulting him. That night, Hi decides to steal a package of diapers for the baby and flees on foot through the neighborhood, dodging the police, gun-toting store cashiers, and a pack of dogs. Ed finally relents and picks him up, leading to a tense ride home. At the McDunnough residence the next day, Glen approaches Hi to fire him and reveal that he has deduced "Junior's" identity and blackmails Hi. Gale and Evelle overhear this conversation and turn on Hi, tying him up and taking Junior for themselves. Gale and Evelle leave with plans to rob a "hayseed" bank with Junior in tow. When Ed comes home, she frees Hi and the two arm themselves and set out to retrieve their child together. En route, Ed suggests that they should end their marriage after recovering the boy. Nathan Arizona Sr. is approached by the bounty hunter Leonard Smalls (Randall "Tex" Cobb) who offers to find the child. Nathan Sr. declines the offer, believing that Smalls is his son's kidnapper. Smalls decides to recover the child anyway to sell on the black market. He begins tracking Gale and Evelle and learns of their bank robbery plans. Gale and Evelle rob the bank but forget to take Junior in the car on their getaway. One of the bank's anti-theft dye canisters explodes in their loot sack, disabling the car and incapacitating them. At the bank, Smalls arrives for Junior just ahead of Ed and Hi. Ed grabs the baby and flees; Hi is able to fend Smalls off for a while, but soon finds himself at Smalls' mercy. As Smalls prepares to kill him, Hi holds up his hand to reveal that he has pulled the pin from one of the hand grenades on Smalls' vest. Smalls struggles, but is blown to pieces by the grenade. Hi and Ed sneak Junior back into the Arizona home and are confronted by Nathan Sr. After Nathan Sr. learns why they took his son, he understands the couple's predicament and counsels the young couple. When Hi and Ed say that they are breaking up, he advises them to sleep on it. Hi and Ed go to sleep in the same bed, and Hi has a dream about Gale and Evelle reforming after returning to prison; Glen gets his due from a Polish-American police officer after "telling one Polack joke too many"; and Nathan Jr. gets a football for Christmas from "a kindly couple who wish to remain anonymous," later becoming a football star. The dream ends by depicting an elderly couple together enjoying a holiday visit from a large family of children and grandchildren.