Arkansas
R2 - United Kingdom - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (2nd July 2020).
The Film

In Clark Duke’s directorial debut, Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Clark Duke) live by the orders of an Arkansas-based drug kingpin named Frog (Vince Vaughn), whom they’ve never met. Posing as junior park rangers by day, they operate as low-level drug couriers by night under the watchful eye of Frog’s proxies (John Malkovich and Vivica A. Fox). Swin settles into his day job by taking up a relationship with Johnna (Eden Brolin) against orders to blend in, while Kyle continues to question his night job by trying to figure out who Frog really is. Their world is then upended after one too many inept decisions, and Kyle, Swin, and Johnna find themselves directly in Frog’s crosshairs, who mistakenly sees them as a threat to his empire.

Based on John Brandon’s best-selling novel of the same name, Arkansas weaves together three decades of Deep South drug trafficking to explore the cycle of violence that turns young men into criminals, and old men into legends.

Video

A colourful sometimes blackly comic gangster saga, southern style with decent technical specifications and a fine script and performances. It didn't blow me away or anything but Arkansas is a solid view and worth a look for those who're interested.

This is visually a low key neo-noir shot digitally in the modern style. Colours are mostly fairly muted but naturalistic, flesh tones are also fairly subdued; warmer in certain circumstances like nightclub scenes, flashbacks or in indoor lighting. But colours kick out when needed; mainly Clark Duke's *colourful* wardrobe; and the flashbacks showing how the characters got to where they are in life in the lresent.

Black levels are deep enough with plenty of shadow detail given the standard definition format and detail overall is pretty good ... on e again, considering the DVD format under review. It mainly benefits the most in closeups, long shots can become blurry when scrutinised. Under normal viewing distance (say ten feet) on a properly setup system and display this plays very well for standard. Contrast is supportive and lowkey allowing for no blown out highlights. There's occasional minor artefacts in darker scenes but 99% won't notice.

PAL / MPEG-2 / 2.4:1 / 112:15

Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English HoH

As with many other DVD 5.1 soundtracks I get to review this one is one has been recorded at a fairly low level which can suffer when compared to lossless Blu-ray tracks. Music comes off best, dialogue is lower in the mix but is alway clear. The surround channels are effectively used during action scenes and music is the main inhabitant of the rears as well. Being a crime drama this isn't in the same league as an action spectacular like the latest Bond extravaganza or a Star Wars epic.

Obviously, being a new production there are no distortions or age related issues. It's a good, solid lossy track that gets the job done and focusses on clarity and ambiance. Subtitles for the hearing impaired are an essential addition, are well done covering most of the dialogue closely and are welcome. Bravo.

This soundtrack will not blow anyone away but does get the job done solidly.

Extras

Audio commentary by writer / director Clark Duke

A great track that adds much more contextual added value to a somewhat middle of the road film. This was something of a passion project for Duke who recounts how he came to the project and what it means for his developing career. Plenty of detail here about the writing and filming, why The Flaming Lips did all of the cover songs in the film.

"Making Arkansas" 2019 featurette (13:23)

A pretty standard EPK puff piece although more detailed and story focussed than most. Co-writer-director-producer Duke focusses on how the film shows aspects of Southern life not normally put on film; namely the Dixie Mafia. We here how he bought the rights to John Brandon's book in 2009 when it was first published. Soundbite interview talking heads intercut with clips with folks describing the merits of the film, discussing the five-act structure, how they reduced the more rambling narrative structure down to a manageable length, comments on actor Clark Duke and his first time directing etc. It would be interesting to read Brandon's feelings on the film.

Interview subjects: Co-writer Andrew Boonkrong, actor Eden Brolin, actor Chandler Duke, co-writer-director-producer Clark Duke, producer Patrick Hibler, actor John Malkovich and actor Justin Street.

Deleted Scenes (4:22):
- Alternate Opening
- Frog Visits Kyle
- Frog Meets Girl


A brief package of Deleted scenes presented in the same visual quality as the film.

"Flaming Lips: He Stopped Loving Her Today" 2019 music video (2:56)

What it says on the tin; music video for the pie e of country music in the film. Features clips from the film.

Startup Trailer:
- A Score to Settle (1:49)
- John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (1:55)
- Antebellum (0:57)


Entertaining brace of promos for other Lionsgate titles.

Packaging

Standard black DVD Keepcase.

Overall

A solid crime drama gets the standard DVD treatment with solid image and sound quality. Extras aren't extensive but are fairly decent for a minor title these days.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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