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Ed: I'm not gonna live this way, Hi! It just ain't family life!
H.I. (Nicolas Cage), harmless criminal, and Ed (Holly Hunter), a cop, meet and fall in love during a series of mug shots. They get married, settle down, and decide they want kids. There's one problem: Ed's infertile. They try adopting, but H.I.'s criminal past prevents this. Then, when all seems hopeless, an opportunity presents itself: Furniture magnate and local celebrity Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson)'s wife gives birth to quintuplets. An off-handed remark about "having more than they can handle" gives H.I. and Ed the idea to kidnap one of the babies, and raise it as their own. So, H.I. sneaks in, and takes Nathan Jr. (we think), and that's when all hell breaks loose. First, H.I's prison buddies Gayle (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) break out, and hole up at their place. Then a demonic bounty hunter (Randall "Tex" Cobb), seems to spring from H.I.'s nightmares to pursue him. And then he punches out his boss. Directed by the Coen Brothers.
This movie contains examples of:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys
- Apologetic Attacker: HI apologizes twice while fighting Smalls. The first time seems to be out of pure terror and the second time is after pulling the pin out of Small's grenade, killing him.
- Asshole Victim: Subverted. We initially think Nathan Arizona is this, and his early dialogue suggests a potential Big Bad. When HI and Ed return his son he realises they took him. He refuses to call the cops, genuinely thanks them, and offers them uplifting advice on starting a family of their own.
- A Simple Plan: It is a Coen Brothers movie.
- Babies Ever After: In H.I's final dream, he and Ed finally have kids (and grandkids) of their own.
- Babies Make Everything Better
- Badass Biker: Leonard Smalls, to a supernatural degree.
- Black Comedy
- Cannot Tell a Joke: H.I's boss, Glen. Well, he can, he just can't tell a good one, and they're all jokes about Polish people anyways
- Catch Phrase: "Okay then," the catchphrase of Arizona yokels.
- Chase Scene: Cops and trigger-happy civilians wildly pursue H.I. and Ed after a bungled robbery.
- Cloudcuckooland: Rural Arizona is depicted as such.
- Code Name:
Gale: I told you not to use our names. Can't you try to keep from forgetting that?
- Comedic Sociopathy
- Could Say It, But...: H.I. declines to tell Ed why he punched out his boss. The boss was talking about wife-swapping.
- Did You Just Blow Up Cthulhu?
- Disproportionate Retribution: Kicking off the epic Chase Scene, the cops are quick to open fire on H.I., even though all he did was steal Huggies (he left the cash on the counter).
- Distant Finale: H.I.'s dream
- Donut Mess with a Cop: "You wanna find an outlaw, you call an outlaw; you wanna find a Dunkin' Donuts, call a cop."
- Dream Sequence: H.I. has nightmares about the Biker, and the epilogue of the film is more pleasant dream.
- Drives Like Crazy: When H.I. is running from the cops, Ed's police training kicks in, and she immediately turns into Bullitt.
- Einstein Hair: H.I., although it's obvious he's no scientist.
- Eldritch Abomination: H.I. believes this is what the Biker is. The fact that he roars and bleeds fire when shot seems to hint that Hi may be right.
- Embarrassing First Name: H.I. reluctantly signs his Dear John letter Herbert.
- Nathan Arizona is apparently embarrassed by his last name-- he was born "Nathan Huffhines", but claims that he changed his name because nobody would buy furniture from a store called "Unpainted Huffhines".
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted; Leonard Smalls' tattoo reads "Mama Didn't Love Me".
- Freudian Excuse: The Biker's tattoo reads "Momma didn't love me".
- Gender Blender Name: Gale and Evelle, the two male cons (though "Gail" is the feminine spelling of the former).
- Hammerspace: A subtle but cool version of this: As the biker walks through Unpainted Arizona, a cigar appears in one hand, out of nowhere, and a match in his other, which he strikes on a piece of furniture, to light the cigar.
- Hand Cannon: The clerk at the store uses one.
- Harmful to Minors: Leonard Smalls threatens to sell Nathan Jr. on the black market if he doesn't get his ransom.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Break-out roles for Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter. Randall "Tex" Cobb is a more literal example of "That guy". Also, John Goodman and William Forsythe. There's also M. Emmett Walsh as a co-worker who always talks about the same gruesome Noodle Incident.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Telling Polack jokes to a cop named "Kowalski"? Bad idea. Also, Leonard Smalls is blown up by his own grenades.
- Ice Cream Koan: "Well, there's what's right, and there's what's right, and never the twain shall meet."
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The cops and the grocery store owner graduated with honors. Or failed, which ever's funnier.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nathan Arizona, Sr. turns out to be a decent guy in the end.
- Kick the Dog: The Biker's Establishing Character Moment — he shoots a lizard with a shotgun, and tosses a grenade at a bunny rabbit. While speeding on his bike.
- Lock and Load Montage: Parodied. H.I. is going back and forth speechifying, putting another small handgun in his pants every time he reappears on screen. Finally, he appears with a shotgun:
So let's go, honey! (cocks gun) Let's go get Nathan Jr.!
- Magical Realism: Definitely. The plot is centered around a fairly mundane love story/kidnapping scheme, but it also involves a bounty hunter who may or may not be a demon from Hell. And then there's Hi's tendency to have prophetic and/or clairvoyant dreams, which he doesn't seem to consider unusual.
- Maintain the Lie: H.I. and Ed after they "adopt" Nathan Jr.
- Mama Bear: Ed is ready to throw down with Leonard Smalls over Nathan, despite being unarmed.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking:
"I want a baby, H.I.! They got more than they can handle."
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The biker gives this to H.I. at the end.
- Not So Different: H.I. and the Biker have the same Mr. Horsepower tattoo, fueling the possibility that he really is Hi's personal demon.
- Oh Crap: The biker's expression when he realizes H.I. is holding the pin from one of his grenades.
- Pineapple Surprise: how Hi defeats Leonard Smalls
- Pin Pulling Teeth: Done by Leonard Smalls.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Ed, played by 5'2" Holly Hunter, is an officer of the law, twice decorated. Her face off against the biker should give some idea of how she achieved that. Also, when she slaps H.I. for robbing the convenience store, he looks like he's been punched by someone bigger than him.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: Smalls, to the point he might not even be human.
- Scary Black Man: Sometimes he gets the menstrual cramps real hard.
- The Biker's real name is "Leonard Smalls." His friends call him "Lenny"... but he ain't got no friends.
- The tracking shot, supposedly the POV of Leonard Smalls' motorcycle speeding right up into the Arizona family window, is an homage to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films. The Coen brothers were early collaborators with Raimi.
- Sophisticated As Hell: H.I., and everyone in the film, to some degree. An early example of the Coens' fondness for stylization, but Roger Ebert found it distracting enough to pan the movie over it.
Evelle: No ma'am, we didn't escape, we released ourselves from prison on our own recognizance.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Pretty much everything in the film's climax...including the biker.
- Stupid Crooks: H.I. is a terrible crook, getting caught every time he tries to stick up a quickie mart. Evelle and Gale are just as bad, thoroughly bungling their bank robbery and constantly "leaving a man behind."
- Tomboyish Name: Ed, short for Edwina.
- Too Many Babies: the Arizona quints.
- Word Salad Title: Discussed in-universe.
Cop: Sir, we discovered that you were born "Nathan Huffhines".