Hey folks, Valkor. I gotta give mad props to Samuel Jackson; this guy can step into any movie and bring its cool level up ten folds. However in his most recent film from the folks at Sony Home, Arena DVD, he really tries his best but given the storyline, the editing, and that really bad twist ending… well no level of cool Sam brings could ever save this picture. spoilers ahead!
Arena centers on David Lord (Kellan Lutz) – a former firefighter from Denver, now a fighter in a modern day gladiator event, where warriors battle one another to the death all to entertain an online audience. How did Lord get involved in such a scenario? While travelling with his wife and unborn child, their car is struck and the wife is killed almost instantly. Later, Lord goes on a drunken binge in Mexico and has a chance (???) meeting with Milla (Katia Winter). The two go back to Lord's hotel room where Milla seduces him. However the whole thing is a setup, David is ambushed and knocked unconscious.
When he awakens, he's locked in a cell and given the name "Death Dealer" by the Executioner (Johnny Messner), though in Kunta Kinte fashion David refuses to accept it – even when punished (I can't make this stuff up!). He's then made part of the gladiator matches that's lead by Mr. Logan (Sam Jackson), where the combatants fight against virtual backdrops using real weapons. In his first battle, David refuses to fight, refuses to kill but he has no choice as his opponent is out for blood. Eventually Logan and Lord come to an agreement – he wins his next set of matches and he will be set free. The Executioner even ups the ante by giving Lord a choice – he must win his next match by killing his opponent in three minutes or a lonely young woman, tied to a chair, dies. Lord wins his match, but not with a death kill, which gets the woman killed and the reveal of his opponent happens to be his cellmate Taiga (Daniel Dae Kim) … who's, as it would appear, it was his wife tied to that chair. In the end Lord finishes off Taiga and ends it with a promise – he'll agree to Logan's terms… with the condition that he gets to fight the Executioner in the end.
And thus the battle wages on as David Lord aka Death Dealer battles his way towards his goal – facing off against Executioner and his freedom. Along the way, plenty of blood will be spilled and Milla gets all kinds of naked, all leading up to the big reveal. And when it happens you will be disappointed... at least I was. But I'll save that for the TOV Breakdown.
Arena is too fast, too furious and I mean that in a good way. The film flows at a brisk pace – maybe a little too quick as we jump from fight scene to fight scene, because waste anyone's time with brutal battles when you know our main character is gonna win right? If you like the spillage of blood then Arena has it by the buckets! decaptitations, evicerations, people getting sliced and diced; the film even goes so far as to show Lord getting patched up after each battle – prepare to cringe. Big ups goes to Sam Jackson who looks to have been having way too much fun, which works in this films favor because you get so much of him that you won't want to turn away. Finally, Katia Winter… lovely… just lovely!
First up, Lord's continuing fights are done montage style, so you really don't get to see too many battles just the end results. If this is supposed to be an action film, I wanna see the fights! Next up that twist - GOD DAMNIT!!! Who, I ask you, WHO thought it was a good idea to have the entire thing be a setup, that David is actually a secret agent sent in to infiltrate Logan's Arena? Talk about letting out the remaining air of this already sinking balloon. Next, why does David suddenly develope a Christian Bale's Batman gravelly voice? Where the hell did that come from? Hell, he even speaks in short burst like Bale. Finally, why are the same people shown watching the death matches? Couldn't we have diversified it a bit? I mean it is an online audience.
Watching Lord getting patched up… not for the squeamish!
I've sat through my share of fighting films and while Arena isn't exactly the best of the bunch, it certainly isn't the worse. The film has a couple of decent fights, some sweet nudity, lots of gore and Sam Jackson hamming it up – and yet that's still not enough to save it from a low score because as it stands, out of TOV 5 stars, I give Arena DVD (which is also available in Blu-Ray) a 2.