Clark Duke was best known as a peripheral member of that Superbad crew of gauchely charming leading men, along with the likes of Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. As might be expected, he does a better job of utilising his own talents in his directorial debut, a meandering crime yarn, set in and named after Duke’s home state.
Adapted from a 2008 novel by John Brandon, Arkansas is about two unambitious but conscientious crooks, Swin (Duke) and Kyle (Liam Hemsworth), who sometimes idly wonder about the meaning of it all, but mostly get on with the business of trafficking drugs across state lines. When surprise events force them to pursue a face-to-face meet with their organisation’s mysterious kingpin, Frog, they set about climbing the corporate ladder with old-fashioned American chutzpah.
Not much about this film is original, but the buddy-pairing of two equally competent criminals is something we haven’t seen too often. For cool-headed Kyle, turning up two dead bodies on the property is “just a busy day”.
If the year were 1999, Arkansas would have a good shot at nabbing a special jury prize at Sundance and perhaps the cover of Neon magazine. It’s 2020, though, so the red-on-black screen titles that introduce each “chapter” feel like a tired gimmick and the influence of Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Kevin Smith, et al, is palpable throughout.
That’s no bad thing in terms of the dialogue, especially as delivered by such consummate genre veterans as Vivica A Fox and Michael K Williams. In the end, though, as a collection of smart-mouthed southern ne’er-do-wells, Arkansas amuses, but as a showcase for colourful 70s menswear, it excels. Vince Vaughn hasn’t looked this sharp since Swingers.
• Arkansas is available on digital platforms from 13 July.