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Arsenal (Blu-ray Review)

It sounds very silly to have expectations for or to be really looking forward to a film like Arsenal.  A primarily straight to Blu-ray and DVD (I think it played a couple festivals) release where the leads are Adrien Grenier and Johnathon Schaech.  And John Cusack, has been less of the kicker than ever in the past couple of years, looking unhappy stuck in some sort of slow rent action movie straight to video hell.  The kicker here was someone also kind of stuck there, but who always commits; Nicolas Cage.  This trailer actually brought the internet abuzz as he looked to be going full on Cage for this one and was resurreting his Deadfall past with “Eddie”.  Maybe Cusack would find it in himself to bring it too.  This looked like it could be bringing the right amount of crazy and silly to an otherwise tired looking story.  Therein lies the potential I (And I was not alone) was seeing in this movie.  Everything seemed like it was on the table, but would it actually pan out.

Film 

Family loyalty is tested in this ferocious thriller about a successful businessman willing to do anything for his deadbeat brother – including tracking down the vicious mobster holding him hostage.

Well, no, these chips in place do not all stack together in Arsenal.  And the thing is, they were there and they could’ve, but some really horrible technical direction holds it back from being a pretty enjoyable schlocky b-level thriller.  Performances were there and the story had just enough to let the actors play, but its a movie that is pretty tough on the eyes to watch that is in a sad disservice to the film.

Between the film’s cinematography and editing, its a ugly bit of a mess.  I don’t know which is to blame, or maybe its both.  This film shakes the shit out of the camera a lot for intensity but doesn’t seem to understand how that sort of technique is made useful or effective.  It also cuts and moves shot to shot at rapid place in many aspect of the film.  Yes, I’ve seen movies like this before.  I’ve seen it where its done amazingly (Paul Greengrass), but with these low budget thrillers it is a cheap tactic to hide a budget or to seem edgy.  In Arsenal, its just hard and not fun to watch at all.

Its not completely for loss, as the film’s finale features some of the best work of the film and is incredibly enjoyable, making me ask “Where was this the rest of the film?”  Said sequence features some actual fun, ingenuity and an interesting take on slow-motion bullet-time action.  For the first time in the film, I found myself pretty engaged and into it.  Unfortunately, that’s it.  The film is over after that.  If they could have put this brain power and creativity to play on car chases and other shootouts in the film, this could have made Arsenal a much better walk in the park.  Unfortunately, its too little too late.

The best part of this movie is Nicolas Cage’s reprisal of “Eddie” from Deadfall.  As always with Cage, the man full realizes the film he’s in and is able to present an over the top bit of camp, but yet harness it enough to fit a serious film and bring with it a sense of dread.  FEW actors could pull of what he does here.  Yes, I’ve been harsh on this film, but that’s just Cage.  He doesn’t care, he’ll at least do his fine work and try to make it the best he can with what he’s able to do.  John Cusack?  Unfortunately no real screentime with Cage, and he looks bored and embarrassed that he has to wear that rag on top of his head.

Many fans were pretty surprised and thrilled when the trailer for Arsenal dropped out of nowhere a few months ago.  People were like “How can I see this now?”.  Well, I’m glad I had to wait.  I was flat out disappointed.  I feel bad for the director because he really had something here but his cameraman and editor really seem to have let him down.  His cast is fine.  I didn’t mention him, but this is one of Johnathon Schaech’s better performances.  As low as I’ve been on the film, those interested shouldn’t feel hurt to rent or wait for it on Netflix (Or whatever monthly service it gets provided on).

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Arsenal doesn’t look to pretty to my eyes as the overall product.  But it is a really sharp and crisp picture.  Details are pretty high in this pretty washed out image.  Its trying to fake some overly slick look to it that probably wasn’t there.  Its okay for what it is, but its the camera work and editing in the actual feature that don’t help do it justice.  The opening shot of the film looks great, but that’s one that actually allows you to enjoy an image and take it in.

Depth:  Dimensional work is all right.  Characters move a bit natural and cinematic.  Due to the nature of the camera-work and editing, it is a bit rigid and jittery time to time.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and a little consuming.  Details can be lost upon darkened or nighttime sequences as well as clothing and surfaces.  No crushing witnessed during the viewing for this review.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are erred on the side of being caught in golden and green filters through this thing.  Some other filters, like club/night clubs have offer more vibrant offerings.  However, most of the film is washed out and doesn’t really pull a lot of pop.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones, thanks to a filter used a lot throughout, have a golden/greenish sheen to them throughout the film.  Details in close-ups feature a real good look at make-up smudging, stubble (With different color saturations), wrinkles, and blemishes.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Arsenal comes with a pretty solid, if not standard sounding, 5.1 mix.  The film features plenty of action-esque sequences and handles them quite fine.  There is also a decent balance of the film’s music/score with the vocals and effects.  Nothing crazy here, but still comfortably above average in its presentation.  Shootouts are definitely the highlight.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  This one does feel a good boom with the subwoofer.  Guns, explosions, engines roaring with punching and kicking all beat the drum here.  Scoring bass notes also hit a little deeper than average in this mix.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Some of the shootout sequences features some good sound traveling and decent effectiveness from the rear channels.  A baseball game sequence features some unique crowd and stadium sounds as ambiance in the rears.  Overall volume placement and sound movement is accurately done and makes to be effective enough.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is good and clear.  Nuances in voices, especially Cage’s, all get picked up in this mix

Extras 

Arsenal comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Steven C. Miller and Actor Johnathon Schaech

Building An Arsenal (HD, 9:47) – Here a little EPK’esque fluff on the film with a really enthusiastic Adrian Grenier and company discussing the story, acting and filming of the film.  A major disappointment with this is that Nicolas Cage and John Cusack are not participants in this.  Though, Johnathon Schaech mentions that working with Nicolas Cage was “a dream come true”.

Extended Interviews – These are just a little bit extra from the sessions used for the “Building An Arsenal” featurette.

  • Adrian Grenier “JP” (HD, 4:31) 
  • Johnathon Schaech “Mikey” (HD, 5:05) 
  • Lydia Hull “Lizzie” (HD, 4:08) 
  • Steven C. Miller, Director (HD, 3:43) 
  • Brandon Cox, Cinemtographer (HD, 9:13) 

Arsenal Trailer (HD, 2:05) 

Summary 

Arsenal winds up being a pretty big disappointment with not enough Nicolas Cage.  This Blu-ray has some good picture and audio though.  The extras also kind of disappoint in a way because both Nicolas Cage and John Cusack are nowhere to be found on them.  Yeah we get the “It was great to work with them” talk, but I’d really love to hear them discuss this movie over anyone else in the cast and crew.  Overall, this is a rental or stream to itch the curiosity.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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