Raising Arizona

It just occurred to me, twenty years too late, that this is a heist picture.

It has always baffled me in terms of its structure, always remaining a little bit outside of the Coens repetoire, unclassifiable, even though it’s always been one of my top three Coen films. It’s clearly a comedy, sure, but what is it structurally? It’s not a domestic comedy, although it contains elements of that, and it’s not a noir, although it contains elements of that too.

No, it’s a heist picture. The baby is the Maltese Falcon, the thing everyone’s after, the thing that will change the lives of everyone who touches it, the “stuff that dreams are made of.”

It’s got all the elements of a classic heist picture: corrupt cops, three-time losers, escaped convicts, desperate criminals, crosses, double-crosses, snitches, betrayers, hotheads, even a shotgun-wielding maniac.

Now I realize that the place the Coens started was, “Hey, what if we did a heist picture, and instead of suitcase full of diamonds (or Ving Rhames’s soul), it was a baby?”

For whatever reason, when the ending comes along and Nicolas Cage goes into his dream, and we see little Nathan Jr. growing up, it always makes me sob like a little girl.
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3 Responses to “Raising Arizona”
  1. craigjclark says:

    If only all heist pictures had the balls to use yodeling and banjo music.

  2. greyaenigma says:


    I wonder if the Leonard Smalls character would have gone to Robert Shaw if he were still around:

    “I’ll catch this child for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad baby. Not like going down to the playground and chasing strollers and toddlers. This kid, swallow you whole. No shakin’, no tenderizin’, down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your costumers, put all your business on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. “

    OK maybe that would be too creepy.

  3. Glad to know I’m not the only one who falls apart at the end of this film.

    Saw it at midnight on opening night at the Waverly in Greenwich Village with one of the best movie theatre audiences I’ve ever been in, all of whom were audibly weeping at the end.

    No matter how many times I see this film, and know everything that’s coming, and don’t think it’ll get me again, the last few narration lines will ALWAYS get me, dammit.

    And nice catch on it as a classic “heist” film. It DOES explain a lot about what the hell kind of film this is.