“The rules are simple, Play or be Played”
Director: Jonah Loop
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kellan Lutz, Johnny Messner
Synopsis: David Lord finds himself forced into the savage world of a modern gladiatorial arena, where men fight to the death for the entertainment of the online masses.
I can’t help thinking Samuel L. Jackson simply had his eye on the pay cheque when he accepted a role in this dud. Can’t blame him in one way – we all live in fear of the money drying up – but if he carries on appearing in rubbish like this he’s going to one day find himself playing support to the likes of Lance Henrickson…
The movie opens with hero Kellan Lutz (A Nightmare on Elm Street) playing American football. American movie makers like to equate the national sport with the gladiatorial combats of old (e.g Any Given Sunday) and this theme is played on throughout the film. After going off the rails following the death of his heavily pregnant wife, Lutz gets in a bar-room fight which culminates in him being kidnapped and forced to fight to the death with other unlucky fighters for the betting pleasure of internet viewers around the world (well, actually, it appears that an office worker in Japan and a bunch of party dudes in the States are the main viewers).
The whole thing is operated by the aforementioned Mr. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained), who is essentially the modern day equivalent of those bacchanalian Roman emperors who lounged around on a sofa above the arena and let their thumb hover horizontally for a few seconds before letting it rise or fall. Jackson even has a couple of nubile maidens at his beck and call as he samples a feast of grapes and wine.
The plot of The Arena is barely worthy of being described as such, following a boringly predictable path to an open-ended conclusion which suggests the producers are hoping for enough of a return to justify a sequel. The violence is bloody and graphic and ultra-stylised, and there’s plenty of female nudity on display (our hero finds himself zapped senseless by a naked Katia Winter, which is no doubt something that the adolescent target market fantasises about), but the characters are so paper thin that you can’t stop yourself from being bored.
(Reviewed 6th March 2012)