after the death of his wife in a car accident, mild-mannered fireman/paramedic
David Lord (Twilight hunk Kellan Lutz) heads down Mexico-way to drink himself
to death and take his mind of the whole dead wife thing by screwing mysterious,
beautiful women he meets in sleazy neon-lit bars.
However, when he meets the mysterious, beautiful Milla (Katia Winter)
in a sleazy, neon-lit bar, the screwing he gets isn’t the one he’s hoping for
and, before you can say duplicitous
bitch, she’s zapped him unconscious with a stun gun, he’s tied to a
stretcher and kidnapped by some faceless thugs and shipped off to a warehouse
cum state-of-the-art prison where half-naked, masked, oiled beefcake
executioner Kaden (Johnny Messner) informs him that his new name will be
Deathdealer and his new job is to survive. David has been ‘headhunted’ by illicit Internet snuff show
Death Games, a live, modern-day, gladiatorial arena where desperate men fight
to the death for the amusement of its international web audience of Japanese
salarymen and American fratboys.
Initially reluctant to fight, David is offered a deal by self-proclaimed
“man behind the curtain,” Logan (Samuel L. Jackson in full-on panto
villain mode), the puppet-master who controls the show; survive 10 fights and
win your freedom. David agrees and
pretty soon Deathdealer is an Internet phenomenon, worshipped by literally
dozens around the globe as he hacks and slashes his way to freedom. But with the odds stacked against him
can David survive?
Let’s get this out of the way right now before you read any further:
ARENA IS CRAP!
This movie is stupid.
It’s the kind of film that usually stars a has-been wrestler and Vinnie
Jones, not a tween heartthrob and an Academy Award nominee.
It doesn’t make a lick of sense.
It’s dumber than two kittens fighting in a tumble dryer and a helluva
lot more savage with its hunky antihero forced to use all manner of clubs,
knives, swords, axes, hatchets and power tools in his visceral fight to survive. It’s almost comically grotesque; limbs
and heads are chopped off, skulls are cleaved open, bones are broken and
shattered, flesh is ripped and torn and the masochistic Lutz soaks up some
pretty serious pain, forced to rely on his paramedic training to keep body and
soul together, sewing and staple-gunning himself back together after every
The plot is nonsense, the dialogue risible. Despite every geek on the planet watching and betting on the
Games over the Internet, the CIA, the FBI and MI6 can’t track down and bust the
arena even though all they have to do is open a window and listen out for
shouty, grandstanding Samuel L. Jackson as he chews the scenery like it’s beef
jerky, while his two Japanese lesbian dominatrix assistants keep things running
smoothly. Messner is about as
threatening as Pete Burns in a burqa as the film’s masked baddie, Lutz is a
pleasingly attractive slab of beef who acquits himself well in the film’s
gratuitously violent scenes of carnage despite seeming just a little too young,
pretty and petulant to be a glowering anti-hero and Winter looks great with her
clothes off. Which is lucky as
it’s all she really has to do. The
film borrows (steals) from movies like The Running Man and Death Race
and despite being based on a screenplay by Michael Hultquist & Robert Martinez, writers of 2010’s enjoyably nasty Victim (a torture-porn The Skin I Live In), the script doesn’t
have a tenth of the wit or intelligence of Richard
Laymon’s gruesome little short story The
Champion which did the same job in half a dozen pages.
But what’s most annoying about Arena is it’s kinda fun. Sorta enjoyable. A pretty decent night-in with a few
beers and a curry type of film.
The fight scenes are good, the violence is visceral and gory, the protagonists,
for the most part, are easy on the eye.
It’s undemanding, comic-book entertainment and, despite a truly crap 11th
hour twist, Arena does what it sets out to do; it entertains. Especially if you’re drunk when you
watch it. Next time your significant
other is out for the evening, get yourself a six-pack and a pizza and watch it.