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Cage Match Round 3 – Arsenal

Cage Match is an ongoing look at Nicolas Cage’s output from the last decade or so. I’m watching, reviewing and ranking all those movies that barely played in theatres or went straight to DVD. What are these movies all about? Which one is the best? There can be only one true Cage movie of note. Join me and let’s find out together!

Our third contender in the Cage is Arsenal, a 1 hr 37 minute 2017 action movie that also stars fellow direct to DVD player, John Cusack.

Estimated Budget: $10,000,000 USD (estimated), Gross Worldwide: $41,037

Arsenal Movie Poster

Arsenal Review

What’s Cage up to this time?

Here we have our first look at Cage as the villain of the movie! Cage plays Eddie King, a cocaine snorting mobster dude who talks a lot of shit, always sounds like he’s drunk and occasionally breaks down into emotional monologues.He kidnaps the brother of the main character and demands a ransom.

Who else is in the cage?

Entourage’s Adrian Grenier is the lead character JP. JP is perhaps unhealthily obsessed with his brother, Mikey. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they love each other but JP never shuts the fuck up about his brother. He tells a story early on about a time when he was five-years-old and he thought a street preacher yelling about god was actually talking about Mikey because they’re both so amazing. His family makes it clear this is a story he has told many times before so they are just tolerating him at this point.

Strange thing but I noted that JP always says his name at the top of a phone call, no matter who he is calling. “Hey Mikey, it’s your brother JP.” “Hey wife’s name, it’s me JP.” “Hey JP, it’s yourself JP. Just leaving you a message to remember your name. It’s JP.”

The other big actor, and one who is also familiar with the world of direct to video action movies, is Mr. John Cusack. John is wearing the same clothes he appears to wear in all his movies and puts slightly above average enthusiasm into his part. Cusack’s whole essence in this movie screams “lots of money for a day’s work.”

The director is Stephen C. Miller who directed a Christmas slasher movie I quite enjoyed (2012’s Silent Night), one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (Escape Plan 2) and a host of other direct to video movies with names like Line of Duty, Marauders and First Kill. He seems to dabble more in the Bruce Willis-verse of VOD as he has worked with him three times now.

The writer is Jason Mosberg who according to IMDb is known for…Arsenal. So there you go.

Is the movie worthy of Cage?

Arsenal’s story is incredibly by the books and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was written using a fill in the blanks template vs an actual screenplay. “You kidnapped my brother bad guys and I want him back!” I did like that because our lead isn’t a typical action movie protagonist, he doesn’t immediately go in guns blazing and shoot everyone to save Mikey. He actually does spend a good part of the movie trying to raise the money needed to pay the ransom. He eventually goes in guns blazing, and usually blazing them in slow motion, but I appreciated that he tried to solve the problem legit first.

The relationship between JP and Mikey is the “heart” of the picture, or at least that’s what everyone says in the bonus features. My problem there is that it’s not established very well. When Mikey is kidnapped, JP immediately knows he’s ready to pay $350,000 to save him, no matter what he has to do. “It’s Mikey, it’s my brother!” and all that. However, before that, we get a scene of them as kids where Mikey is treating him like shit, and another scene where he is treating him like shit but for noble reasons. Then they play baseball as adults for a couple minutes and that’s about all we get. The movie tells us repeatedly how amazing they are as brothers, but it could have spent a little bit more time showing me because I wasn’t convinced.

The actual action in the movie is pretty infrequent, but when it shows up you can be damn sure it’s going to be in slow motion. We see slow motion face punches, slow motion headshots and, perhaps most importantly, slow motion shotgun blasts to the dick. It’s silly but you know what, I was there for it. A regular motion dick blast is already good so to slow it up obviously makes it 100 times better. It brings a unique touch to what could have ended up being generic “let’s stand still and shoot guns at each other and maybe occasionally hide behind a box” action scenes that are all too common in low budget action films.

How Cage-y is Cage?

Holy shit now this is the kind of Cage I’m looking for. Dude is wearing a giant prosthetic nose, a goofy mustache and hair and dresses like a disco fanatic. He breaks out into a screaming monologue at least twice and always sounds drunk. He brings a massive jolt of energy to the movie every time he shows up, which is just frequent enough to not overstay his welcome. This is exactly what I want. This is proof that Cage isn’t just showing up to the set to collect a paycheck and call it a day. He is committed. He has a character. He has ideas, and one of those ideas is a fake fucking nose.

You bought the blu-ray?! Are there bonus features at least?!

There sure are!

There’s a Behind the Scenes feature that immediately opens with Grenier calling the movie Southern Fury, which is definitely a better name. He also talks about why that name is significant so maybe you should have cut around that stuff Person Who Cut This Bonus Feature. The rest is many of the usual talking points. “There’s a lot of action, but there’s also a lot of heart.” “Working with Nicolas Cage was a dream come true.”

The package also lists “Feature Commentaries” but I was only able to access one. The commentary almost addresses why the movie is now called Arsenal instead of Southern Fury, but then they get distracted and never get back to it. It does confirm that Cusack rolls on to the set in his own clothes so that explains why it seems like he just plays the same character in every movie he appears in. It also confirms Cage showed up with the fake nose and everything without telling anyone. What are they going to do? Tell him no? Fake nose it is.

Having a commentary track on this movie is a good reminder that it’s easy to get cynical about these movies being tax write-offs or easy money but there are people behind the scenes trying to make the best movie they can. They speak passionately about it and it gave me a bit more appreciation for the whole thing.

Should you get into this cage?

After having a quick look around at the rest of the internet’s opinions on this movie, I definitely seem to be the minority when I say that I didn’t mind it. It’s an agreeable time waster that is made livelier by Cage and a weird obsession with slow motion violence. I don’t think it rises too far above the level of “movie I had on in the background while cooking dinner and didn’t mind”, but sometimes that’s all you need.

Where does it rank?

Primal disappointed me by not living up to its premise. Arsenal surprised me by slightly exceeding its premise. It’s pretty close, but I think Arsenal is officially taking the top spot.

As It Stands:

Left Behind

Arsenal Movie Trailer
Published inMovie Reviews

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