Arlington Road is the worst movie ever made
If Arlington Road were just badly acted (and Joan Cusack, Jeff Bridges, Hope Davis, and especially Tim Robbins give it their best effort to make us believe they are untalented), poorly thought out (the screenplay is beyond simplistic and idiotic, wouldn’t it be easier just to set up clichés and not follow through with them, why do all of the characters all have to be so stupid, and largest of all, why does Robbins need to go through any of the phony niceties, moving into the neighborhood, block parties, burning his child!, etc., couldn’t he have just simply delivered the bomb himself if all it involved was getting a van in front of a building), and sloppily directed (why did he cut to the tailpipe, what’s with the dumb cheap shocks, the pay phone, what’s with that ridiculous sequence on the army base, etc.), it would simply be a shoddy movie, easily dismissed and forgotten. But the problem is all about tone. The movie believes itself to be so smart and mysterious, which it certainly isn’t, that it comes off as smug, arrogant, and snarky. It’s the kind of thing that turns a movie watching experience from simply mocking and ridicule to anger and seething hatred. What I really object is to the outright contempt for the audience and the assumption that the viewer will be stupid not to notice anything that isn’t spoon-fed. Since each plot twist is telegraphed at least 20 minutes in advance, but the movie pretends like it’s re-inventing the wheel, we’re left with the fumes of smugness, sputtering along, as you wait for the writer to catch up. At least Ehren Kruger proved who he really was in his follow-up scripts, for the terrible Reindeer Games and Scream 3, and not just lucky to have written the worst movie ever made.
The ending is ripped off completely from a Warren Beatty movie from the 70’s called The Parallax View (which I’m not a fan of anyway, not because of the ending, though). To me, it’s the worst part of the film, because not only does it not make a lick of sense (how certain characters know exactly how random passerbys are going to react over and over, how deeply dumb is it for a huge plan by supposed professionals rely entirely on how Bridges reacts, how can Robbins assume that he will beaten up just enough not to be unconscious and not be tied up or restrained), its deeply cynical belief that it would be really cool to have a downbeat ending (because there was a sale on ripping off 70’s movies?), thinking that the audience wasn’t expecting it and wouldn’t it be ironic considering the statements made earlier in the movie by the main character?