Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Is this movie ‘Arena’ worth your VOD rental dollar? Uh… hell yes it is. Sure, we know that the whole Internet murder game thing isn’t the most original movie idea around, and actor Kellen Lutz won’t be confused for Robert DeNiro any time soon… though I don’t believe DeNiro could’ve have pulled this off… But I think Team Arena had some goals they wanted to accomplish with their little action film, with none of these goals being overly ambitious, and without being privileged to confidential inside information, I’m going to go ahead and guess that they accomplished the vast majority of these goals. Excessive violence, gratuitous nudity, Samuel L. overacting, a story that’s damn near incomprehensible and Kellen spending 92% of this movie with his shirt off. Mission accomplished, and the world is better off for it.

David Lord (Lutz) is minding his own business, loving life and driving down the street with his pregnant wife Lori (Nina Dobrev) when he is rear ended and then broadsided by a couple of cars. It looks to me like this was done on purpose, but David is just a fireman / EMS tech so why would anybody want to do him harm? Tragically Lori and the baby didn’t survive this crash leaving David a heaping mess of spiraling suicidal grief. In researching this little article I have learned that Nina Dobrev is a very popular young actress and her fans are none too happy about her small part in this movie. Just so you know if you happen to be a Nina Dobrev fan. Anyaway, his brother (James Remar) tries to comfort him, but whaddayagonnado? Yeah, Kellen Lutz is about twenty five and James Remar is almost sixty… but you know these non-traditional families nowadays are becoming more common.

Next time we visit David a few months have passed and he is at a Mexican Cantina drinking his life away. He foolishly flashes a wad of bills to pay for his liquor, and some unsavory dude follows him into the loo to relive him of this cash… ask the guy with the broken face who’s the fool now? This unseen display of fighting prowess wasn’t lost on another bar patron, a lovely woman we will come to know Milla (Katia Winter) who will take the drunken fireman back to his hotel on the premise of seducing him, give a sharp bolt of electricity and now David is in the fighting stable of the completely evil Mr. Logan (Samuel L).

All Mr. Logan wants you to do is fight in his closed circuit internet battle royale. Yes, you will eventually die in the ring, no… you get no money for your efforts, and you will be treated like day old dookey, but what choice do you have. Resistance, if your name is David Lord. Try as he might to break him, largely using his extra mean right hand man Kaden (Johnny Messner), David will not accept his new title as Death Dealer and he will not fight. That is unless you throw him in a ring with somebody who is trying to kill him, because you can only back pedal for so long.

Eventually David and Mr. Logan come to an agreement. David wins the allotted number of fights, Mr. Logan sets him free. David will only agree if his final fight is against Kaden, who he really doesn’t like all that much. Cool, we have a deal. It also will be beneficial to David if somewhere down the line the woman who kidnapped him falls in love with him for some reason. Hell if I know why she fell in love with him. I mean I know why, because it’s convenient for certain things to happen in the script and it gives the producers another excuse to show Katia Winter naked yet again, but for the most part it makes no freaking sense.

But are we watching this movie because we want something that makes sense? No my friends, we are not. We’re just waiting for the big fight between two really mean dudes, one who looks like he’s been hanging out at the gym just a little more than the other guy, and we want to see if David Lord is going fulfill his promise to Mr. Logan that he’s going to kill him. I think after ‘Deep Blue Sea’ Samuel L. has a non-death clause in his contract so good luck with that one David Lord.

Is ‘Arena’ a good movie? Who are we to say what’s good and what’s not? I will say that director Jonah Loop… whoever the hell he is… kept his movie moving, kept the style high, kept the nonsense even higher and people behind this movie put the stars of this movie in the best possible positions so that they could succeed. Do you think Sam Jackson can consistently chew scenery over a ninety minute period as a smarmy, underhanded, fast talking fight promoter? Considering he played the same exact role in the ‘Great White Hype’, yeah, he can do that. Can Johnny Messner play a hardcore thug? Has the man ever played anything else? Does Katia Winter look good naked? Do I really need to answer that? And Kellen Lutz was asked to perform a touch of the emotional stuff near the beginning, but for the rest of the movie all they asked was that he be stone faced, shirtless, scream a lot, beat people up, and do calisthenics. He can totally do that.

There’s a little twist in the movie that may or may not work for you, and I wasn’t really looking for it but it did kind of surprise me. Of course it does force us to think back on some the things that have happened before this little twist, and if you think real hard it doesn’t hold up very well… in fact nothing as far as the narrative is concerned holds up all that well, even in the nonsensical world it exist in, but it does serve the purpose of framing stylish violence and nudity. ‘Arena’ might not be high art, not that we have any idea what high art actually looks like, but I do believe it accomplished what it set out to do.

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