Part Running Man, part Death Race, part Battle Royale and part pretty much every other film where humans have to fight for their lives in modern-day gladiatorial contests, Arena would certainly not score highly on the originality scale.

But the entertainment scale? Well, that’s a bit different – although I’m not exactly sure I enjoyed it the way the makers intended.

Chock full of unintentional humour, strange plot twists and some acting that leaves a lot to be desired, this is perfect late-night, switch off the brain material.

Kellan Lutz (or I should probably just say his abs as he spends the majority of the film shirtless) plays David Lord, a fireman, with a young wife and kid on the way.

After a tragic accident takes care of them though he decides to quit on life, head to Mexico and drink himself to death.

Before you know it, Lord is drugged and recruited for Death Games, an underground series of fight-to-the-death contests that subscribers can watch online.

This organisation is overseen by the villainous Logan (Samuel L Jackson), who has managed to evade the clutches of the FBI etc and keep the money flowing in.

In true Gladiator style, the combatants have to be given stupid names, and in Lord’s case it is Death Dealer.

Unsurprisingly Lord proves to be pretty good at this stuff – but can he find a way to escape and bring this violent empire to its knees?

I think you could probably guess that, although there are a number of reveals and turns along the way.

At a brisk 90 minutes Arena is certainly not boring, and the fast pace papers over the numerous cracks in plot and logic.

In the lead role Lutz is short on range but certainly looks the part, whileJacksonis on full-on ‘shouty Sam’ mode, wildly over-the-top and obviously enjoying himself.

There are also appearances from Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim, Dexter’s James Remar and The Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev, adding a sheen of quality to the flick.

Mention must also go to Katia Winter, who playsLogan’s sidekick Milla, who spends at least half of her sizeable screen time ambling around naked.

As far as the action scenes go they are pretty well done, with the CGI arena locations changing for each contest, so we get First World War trenches, a Roman pit, etc.

The fights are also pretty brutal, with plenty of snapping limbs and spurts of the red stuff.

First time director Jonah Loop has previously provided the visual effects on the likes of Transporter 2 and Collateral, and it is in the visuals that Arena stands tall.

Just don’t expect anything you will remember a day after seeing it.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.

  • GoToMovieReview

    This movie kind of surprised me, thought it was going to be really bad. But it actually held my attention. Liked your review. I will be reviewing this one next on my DVD list, keep up the good work.