It's January. This IS THE SEASON OF CAGE!!! Nicolas Cage thrives in the dumping ground of January, although "thrives" is probably too good of a word for it. The actor's career has taken some unusual turns; from dramatic star to blockbuster action hero, and finally now to king of the $5 DVD bin. I don't think anybody would have expected this phase to include a quasi-sequel to the little-seen 1993 thriller, Deadfall, but that's what we're getting in Arsenal, a movie that features Cage in a ridiculous wig and prosthetic nose.
Those are the biggest (literally) highlights of a muddy and unappealing revenge flick miscast from top-to-bottom. The only one who seems right at home is, naturally, Cage who slips back into the unhinged role of small-time New Orleans mobster Eddie King. It's a flashy, stylish performance that sees Cage slo-mo destroying his victims with evil glee, grinning as the blood splatters all over his cheap suit. If you love Cage, this movie might be worth checking out. Because surely you won't have come to see Entourage's Adrian Grenier, ill-suited to the role of JP, a local businessman dragged into the criminal underworld by his older brother Mikey (Johnathon Schaech, looking like Frank Grillo's evil twin), who has been taken hostage by Eddie in hopes of a phat payout.
The reasons why are explained in an overlong and droning flashback to JP and Mikey's troubled childhood, in which its Mikey who sacrificed everything to shield his brother from the worst aspects of their upbringing. Now the tables have turned and it's JP who is doing the protecting, but even he has to acknowledge the possibility Mikey is in on some kind of scam. That is the only mystery to be found in this straight-ahead, no frills flick by Steven C. Miller, a purveyor of cheap and muddy flicks with inexplicably strong casts. His chief contribution, other than the visuals as marshy as a New Orleans swamp, is an excessive use of of slow-motion and CGI blood. Every gunshot bores into the body at the speed of cold syrup. Whenever Miller feels the need to punctuate a scene he shifts down into half-speed, making a 90-minute film feel like 290-minutes.
While we expect Cage to be totally-off-the-hook, what in the heck is pretty boy Adrian Grenier doing here? He never looks comfortable in a role that asks him to be grim and brooding. He's worked with Miller before, like in last year's Bruce Willis-led Marauders, but he seems to be in limbo at this point of his career. And yet, if he stays that way for long this may be where he ends up permanently, starring alongside Cage in forgettable action movies few will see. Just look at what Cage has done to John Cusack, who appears in the film sporting a do-rag and cap like the toughest suburban gangster ever. His presence adds absolutely nothing and doesn't make the movie better at all, and that's not something we would have said about Cusack just a few years ago. For die-hard Cage enthusiasts and completists only, the strangely-titled Arsenal (there's no arsenal to speak of) will leave anyone else baffled this is actually a sequel, but too bored to care about it for long.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5