Arena is the underdog of tournament movies, you know the ones where people fight like gladiators. And when I say underdog I mean that it’s a straight-to-DVD release with one major star Samuel L. Jackson (straight-out-of-Compton). This directorial debut of Jonah Loop is one of those movies that you watch once and then completely forget. It’s so odd that almost a quarter of a century after Running Man, they’ve still haven’t perfected the formula. This time they added the streaming part to the plot to make it seem more modern. Perhaps inspired by the rise of popularity of pay-per-view MMA tournaments.
A lot of mindless action, a plot seen a thousand times, hot specimens of both genders are all present and accounted for. They are also the main reasons why someone would check this movie out. I almost forgot full-frontal nudity along with copious amounts of gore and blood (still in mainstream terms). Sometimes you just want to zone out with something trashy and formulaic and Arena is exactly that type of movie. It doesn’t even pretend that it’s something else. However, if you already started watching these tournaments slash modern gladiator movies, it will be a decent watch.
Deathgames is a popular web show in which two men try to kill each other gladiator-style in front of millions of viewers. Always on the lookout for new and entertaining contestants, the organizers of this tournament find David Lord, a grief-stricken man with nothing to lose. After a car accident, in which his wife had died, he has nothing to live for and Deathgames recruit him to participate in the contest.
Arena features decently choreographed fight sequences and some cool-looking weapons. It all feels like we’re watching Mortal Kombat all over again. You can almost watch it as a movie so bad that it’s good with all the ridiculous dialogue and CGI sets. It’s almost a throwback to all the eighties and nineties martial arts movies. They were just as bad as this but still managed to find their way into the hearts of millions of viewers. Surely this movie won’t start a new craze or a trend but it’s entertaining enough to warrant a viewing. It reminded me of the television show Spartacus, only on a budget. If you’re looking for similar movies check out The Tournament or DOA.
Director: Jonah Loop
Writers: Tony Giglio, Michael Hultquist, Robert Martinez
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kellan Lutz, Johnny Messner, Katia Winter, Daniel Dae Kim, James Remar, Nina Dobrev
Fun Facts: After Samuel L. Jackson was cast, the title of the film was changed from ‘Fury’ to ‘Deathgames’ to avoid confusion with Jackson’s role as Nick Fury in the series of Marvel superhero films.