Review: Arena DVD

Arena DVDSTUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Jonah Loop | CAST: Kellan Lutz, Samuel L. Jackson, Katia Winter, Nina Dobrev, Daniel Dae Kim
RELEASE DATE: 10/11/2011 | PRICE: DVD $26.99
SPECS: R | 94 min. | Action | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Kellan Lutz (the Twilight series) and Samuel L. Jackson (Mother and Child) go genre in the DVD premiere film Arena, a $10 million mash-up of The Running Man, Death Race (both the old and new versions, and the new one’s sequel), The Blood of Heroes, Gamer and all the other futuristic kill-or-be-killed-in-front-of-a-TV-audience, gladiator-styled combat movies of the last few decades.

Arena movie scene

Kellan Lutz kills'em all in Arena.

Lutz stars as our hero David Lord, whose a brawny Ohio fireman whose wife (Nina Dobrev, TV’s The Vampire Diaries) is killed in a car accident, as we’re told during the opening credits. Kidnapped and brought to a mysterious location, the grieving Lord is forced to fight other combatants in a modern day gladiatorial arena overseen by the demented entrepreneur Logan (Jackson), who makes zillions streaming the matches online. Logan promises Lord his freedom providing he wins 10 matches. For his part, Lord vows to kill Logan the second he’s freed.

Have you figured out where this one’s going?

The first feature film directed by veteran visual effects supervisor Jonah Loop (Collateral), Arena has no shortage of sword-slashing, ax-swinging hand-to-hand battles. A handful of them are lengthy while others are shown in montages, and they all look pretty good.

Lutz is an adequate leading man, handling the action effectively and filling out his various battle costumes well (when he’s not losing his shirt in the course of a showdown, of course). To the film’s and fight choreographer’s credit, it frequently looks like Lutz is taking a real beating! Yes, the violence is extreme — there are lots of blood-geysering and decapitations — but no more so than the stylized death matches seen regularly on Starz’s Spartacus series.

Co-star Jackson is appropriately over-the-top, but it doesn’t look like he’s having as much fun as he could be — it’s scenery chewing minus the heart. Leading lady Katia Winter does her best to get some attention as Lutz’s scheming sponsor and sometimes lover. She does this by frequently taking her clothes off.

The surprising plot twist near the end is ridiculous, but there’s enough rock’em-sock’em-slay’em action along the way, abetted with a generous dollop of sex and nudity, to sate those seeking their daily dose of red meat.

The DVD comes without any special features.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.