Seeing Nicolas Cage and John Cusack on a cover should elicit excitement. These two chummy actors, who’ve turned to starring in B-movies as of late, seem like a dream come true for fans of bad action and cheesy cinema. Up until researching it, I had believed the duo had previously only starred in CON-AIR, but they starred in some unmentionable garbage called THE FROZEN GROUND. However they’ve managed to cross paths again in more unmentionable garbage called ARSENAL.
ARSENAL isn’t a bad movie because of how it presents everything; it’s bad because it wastes the talent of those two actors. I understand that stylized and memorable action movies lately are MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, THE FAST AND FURIOUS franchise or THE RAID franchise. I’m not expecting anyone on the cast list for ARSENAL to start busting out some unforeseen fight moves or for the production company to drop an extra eight figures on the film’s budget so that cars can realistically blow up and fly through the air. ARSENAL does what it’s intended audience expects, badly entertain for 90 minutes.
ARRSENAL has subpar action sequences accompanied by overacting and excessive gore. The formulaic plot revolves around JP (Grenier), who’s thrust into a confusing crime underworld after his mobster brother is kidnapped by Eddie (Cage). Eddie isn’t menacing enough to be a crime king, but the movie would have us believe it by having him spend most of his time screaming at the top of his lungs. It’s becoming a classic Cage overacting trick that’s been implemented over the years.
Sal (Cusack) enters the picture as a friend of JP, who plays a straight laced detective who gets a little dirty in helping Sal get his brother back. This should set-up for an epic showdown between Cusack and Cage, but it never materializes. Grenier and various goons handle most of the action, with is dry by comparison to other low budget action films. There’s actually more torture and foot chases than there is hand-to-hand combat. Even when guns enter the picture, the movie seems arrogant on how to proceed forward.
ARSENAL is mildly entertaining because it goes by in a short amount of time, offering fans of crazy Cage more of what we’ve seen in the past, but not enough of it. There’s some slight interest to see how it all unfolds because on the negative hand, you kind of hope JP’s brother gets what’s coming. Up until the kidnapping, JP was running a normal life and operating his own construction company. Grenier doesn’t play his character with a sympathy card, but there is a level of concern that ARSENAL could reward JP’s brotherly love with a bullet in the head.
ARSENAL is built on family loyalty, but it’s never believable. The only thing that raises this subpar action movie from the ashes are Cusack and Cage, who may have only wanted the paycheck, but still overacted the hell out of every shot. That makes Grenier such a terrible lead because he takes his role too seriously or doesn’t know how to act in the role in the first place. I would say ARSENAL is your typical direct-to-video fare, but that would be an insult to some of the hard working filmmakers who have released legitimately good content through the platform.
BLU RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:39:1) I think the director is better than the content he’s presenting and a lot of that comes in the form of indoor scenes awash in gritty neon colors and warm establishing shots of the great Southwest.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio balancing is not up to the standard the visuals have set. The action is unnecessarily loud and since there’s very little of it, it comes blasting unexpectedly most of the time.
Commentary with Director Steven C. Miller and Actor Johnathon Schaech: The commentary feels like a discussion between two friends about the movie they just collaborated on. Miller sounds knowledgeable and Schaech is really good about spiking softball and technical questions to his buddy. They also share some interesting on set stories.
Building an ARSENAL (9:47): This is an average behind the scenes feature, talking with the cast and crew, but mainly with Director Steven C. Miller. There’s not a lot you learn here that you wouldn’t have learned on the commentary.
Extended Interviews: On this feature, we hear more from Adrian Grenier, Johnathon Schaech, Lydia Hull, Steven C. Miller and Brandon Cox. There’s not a lot for them to unpack that doesn’t feel like it’s forced by PR or generous to the movie.