Main cast: Kellan Lutz (David Lord), Samuel L Jackson (Logan), Katia Winter (Milla), Nina Dobrev (Lori), Derek Mears (Brutus Jackson), Daniel Dae Kim (Taiga), James Remar (Agent McCarty), and Johnny Messner (Kaden)
Director: Jonah Loop
It’s been established in the past few years that Samuel L Jackson will commit to any movie role as long as it nets him a nice paycheck. Therefore, it’s not surprising that, similar to Nicolas Cage, his name in the credits should be taken as a warning that the movie has a high possibility of being not very good, to put it kindly. Let’s add Arena to the growing “movies made solely for the money” list of Mr Jackson.
He plays Logan, a mean entrepreneur who runs an online entertainment show called the Deathgames. In this web show, folks dressed in gladiator outfits battle each other to death in uncensored no-holds-barred combat. Needless to say, the fans lap up the violence and adore the opportunity to vote on whether the Executioner, Kaden, would terminate the life of the victor. The FBI, as you can imagine, is not amused.
Most people believe that the Deathgames are staged, but there won’t be a movie if this is indeed the case. Logan has recruiters such as Milla search and bring in people to participate in his show. As you can imagine, these “recruits” do so unwillingly – such as Taiga who participates in exchange for his wife’s life – or, in our hero David Lord’s case, unwittingly.
After losing his pregnant wife Lori in a fatal car accident, David goes on a drunken spree until he meets Milla in a bar. She attempts to seduce him, and he is happy to play along until she uses a taser-like thing on him. When he comes to, he’s the newest contestant in the Deathgames. Will he make it through alive?
For a movie that offers plenty of violence and gratuitous full-frontal nudity (courtesy of Katia Winter, and no, Kellan Lutz doesn’t go anything beyond going shirtless because manly men don’t do that naked thing), Arena turns out to be a surprisingly dull and unimaginative flick. Much of the dullness can be attributed to the monotonous and uninspired fight scenes, which fast become tedious when the repertoire is reduced to constant bashing to a degree that is pretty unrealistic. The story is predictable for the most part, and the twist ending only makes the whole thing even more implausible than it already is.
Samuel L Jackson is basically chewing scenery here, but Kellan Lutz and Katia Winter do a pretty bang-up job in their roles. Mr Lutz is quite convincing as the action hero here, while Ms Winter plays the sultry femme fatale that reluctantly warms up to David well. It’s just too bad that the pedestrian script and tedious fight scenes drag the movie down despite their credible performances.
Arena is very average, and after the first fifteen minutes, it’s downhill all the way. The amount of violence and Ms Winter’s willingness to bare all would make this one a decent time-waster for folks looking for a popcorn flick of this nature, but ultimately, it’s forgettable fare best left as a last resort when there are no better alternatives to consider.