Arsenal (2017)

(Video On-Demand, May 2017) on the one hand, hiring a big-name actor for a direct-to-video movie can ensure funding, attention and even quality for a low-budget project. On the other hand, what happens if the big-name actor shows up with his own incompatible idea of what the role is about? So it is that anyone can watch Arsenal, which is in many ways a prototypical low-budget crime movie, and wonder “What is Nicolas Cage doing in here?” Turning up with a seventies moustache and an eighties interpretation of a small-town mobster, Cage chows scenery and seems to exist in an entirely different film. Every scene with him creates more questions than answers, endangering the suspension of disbelief required for immersion. (There’s also a greasy performance here by John Cusack that adds almost nothing to the film, to the point where we’re left wondering what he’s doing there.) It really doesn’t help that the film’s execution seems at odds with its script: director Steven C. Miller relishes exploding sprays of blood far too much to do justice to the quiet nature of the story, and every shootout seems as if it was optimized for 3D. The result sits squarely in the realm of direct-to-video thrillers: rather dull with flourishes by big-name actors.

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