Family loyalty is tested in this ferocious thriller about a successful businessman (Adrian Grenier) willing to do anything for his deadbeat brother (Johnathon Schaech) – including tracking down the vicious mobster (Nicolas Cage) holding him hostage.
Even a bad movie can be wildly entertaining. Sure, most of us would prefer to watch something with some visual punch, some story thrust, and some halfway decent performances. But then again, there's nothing quite like watching a train wreck in action. You just want to see how bad it can get. Make no mistake, Arsenal starring Adrian Grenier, John Cusack, and Nicholas Cage is a bad movie. But the sheer lunacy of its parts and an incredibly unhinged turn from Cage make it a hell of a watch!
JP (Adrian Grenier) has a lot going for him. He owns and operates a successful construction business and is married to a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, he also has to take care of his criminally-inclined older brother Mikey (Johnathon Schaech). When Mikey goes missing and JP receives a mysterious phone call demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash or Mikey dies, JP has no choice but to search for his brother. Turning to his undercover cop buddy Sal (John Cusack), JP is short on options and running out of time. Things turn for the worse when the deadly local crime boss Eddie King (Nicholas Cage) appears to be involved with Mikey's disappearance.
Based on that summary, you should be able to tell that Arsenal is pretty bad. However, what you wouldn't expect is that it is even worse. From start to finish, the script is a hobbled mess of plot threads that fail to knit together. It's a mishmash of good ideas from better movies made worse by someone who doesn't know how to handle them. For a thriller, there is very little thrill. Characters amount to dry caricatures of southern blue-collar Americans. It's a true cinematic disaster - and I loved every minute of it!
Don't get me wrong, Arsenal really is a bad movie. You dare not watch it earnestly expecting quality entertainment. Instead, this is one of those great examples where you grab a bunch of friends, bad food, and a few drinks and just kick back and enjoy the ride! While the plot makes little to no sense, all of the twists are obvious and on the nose, it's the cast that wins the day. Adrian Grenier's JP only works if you picture Grenier's alter-ego Vincent from Entourage struggling to stay working until Aquaman starts filming. Have you ever wanted to see a sleepy-eyed John Cusack try to play a tough and edgy undercover cop with a doo rag? Well - now's your chance! About the only genuine performance comes from Johnathon Schaech as Mikey. He gets the idea of a man struggling to do right and make a big splash but isn't patient enough to do the hard work.
While the main cast provides some fun, Nicholas Cage is the true man of the hour. In all honesty, his Eddie King is the sort of crazy off the wall character that only an actor like Cage could bring to life. From his wheezing, stuttering line delivery to his fidgety gesturing to his amazingly bad makeup work, Cage delivers one of his best performances in years in one of the worst movies. Seriously, you have to see the fake nose, the 70s pornstar mustache, and the Anton Chigurh wig in action to fully appreciate everything I'm describing. And it only gets better when Cage's real-life brother Christopher Coppola drops by for one of the film's many pointless plot deviations!
No, Arsenal is not a good movie. Considering it's a direct to video release with Nicholas Cage and John Cusack leading the pack for star power, you probably guessed that it wasn't going to be a powerful and endearing look at the familial blood bond between brothers. However, what you probably weren't expecting to hear is that the movie is actually very entertaining, albeit for all the wrong reasons. So, if you're inclined to ingest some moviemaking at its worst featuring some howlingly entertaining performances, I'm pleased to report that Arsenal has a lot of ammunition to fire your way!
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Arsenal arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in an eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a bunch of trailers for previous and upcoming Lionsgate releases before arriving at a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
Shot digitally, Arsenal is a bit of a mixed bag. While there are plenty of terrific detail levels to appreciate, the image has undergone some very radical color manipulation. To give it that southern Mississippi look, yellows have been pushed to the point that shades of yellow are virtually the only color left on the screen. When the sun goes down, blues are pushed the same way. As a result, flesh tones never look healthy and primaries never really pop. Depending on the scene in question, red blood can shift from a deep crimson to an almost purple color. Black levels never quite reach a stage of true inky black and the image has a tendency to look very flat. Detail levels also shift scene to scene where you can clearly make out Adrian Grenier's beard stubble one moment, and in the next, it looks like he's been slathered in greasepaint. Thankfully, you can fully soak in Nicholas Cage's appearance and dissect it to your heart's delight! Taken as a whole, this is a very intentionally processed looking image. It's nothing great, but it's not terrible. For a direct to video release like this, it's about par for the course.
Arsenal comes packed with a solid English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout without any interference from the sound effects elements or the action-heavy score. There is a terrific sense of atmosphere and space to this track. There are a number of outdoor scenes ranging from peaceful neighborhood front lawns to busy highway bridges and the mix provides plenty of natural-sounding activity. Imaging does a solid job of keeping those surround channels working. Levels are consistent and even throughout without any need for adjustment. All around a spot on mix.
For a direct to video release, there are actually some half-way decent bonus features to pick through. The commentary is a solid listen, especially for understanding shooting on location with small budgets. Everything else is the standard EPK fluff that doesn't really provide a lot of depth.
Audio Commentary: Features Director Steven C. Miller and Actor Johnathon Schaech who played Mikey.
Adrian Grenier (HD 4:31)
Steven C. Miller (HD 3:43)
Johnathon Scaeuch (HD 5:05)
Lydia Hull (HD 4:08)
Brandon Cox (HD 9:13)
Building an Arsenal: (HD 9:47)
Trailer: (HD 2:05)
If you're going to actually try and enjoy watching Arsenal, you're going to need to check your brain at the door. Even then, it's best that you surround yourself with some like-minded friends and just kick back to the absurdity on screen. When Nicholas Cage is on screen, there is a lot of fun to be had. When Cage isn't, you lament his absence.
Lionsgate brings Arsenal to Blu-ray in typical fashion for a direct to video release such as this. The A/V presentation is on par, and there are a few bonus features to pick through. For those that enjoy unintentionally funny and entertaining flicks, Arsenal should fit the bill. Believe it or not, but it's actually worth a look.