Movie Review: Arena Wars (2024)

June 30, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

In the very near future, everyone is absolutely balls deep into Arena Wars; the game show where convicts can earn their freedom if they survive the onslaught of a ghoulish gaggle of murderous madmen (and women)… well at least they used to be into it, but the contest has been one sided… what with those sinister stalkers being armed to the nines and all… for so long that things are getting a bit long in the tooth.

Enter: Luke Bender (John Wells), an ex-marine serving a totally rational 200 year sentence for a crime he had nothing to do with after all, which gives him plenty of motivation to win this particular contest of champions, so before you can say Bachman Books we’re off and runnin’, man!

Now of course comparisons between this film’s narrative, and Arnie’s 1987 masterpiece (and by association Stephen King’s 1982 novel of the same name written under his Richard Bachman pen-name) are going to be inevitable, but as you lascivious lot well and truly know, a film being kinda derivative has never effected my opinion of a fright flick (as far as I can remember)… hell, those that truly know yours cruelly can attest that Bruno Mattei is one of my fav filmmakers… but if the film fails to offer anything entertaining than it’s going to fail the ol’ XIII test…

Thankfully Director Brandon Slagle (Attack of the Unknown), who wrote the screenplay from a story conjured forth by the film’s producers; Michael and Sonny Mahal, keeps things moving like a mother fuckin’ freight train with plenty of down and dirty slobber knockers loaded with sharp objects being applied to flesh in ways never intended, resulting in bloody (and mostly practically realized) mayhem!

In truth, Arena Wars has more in common with the aforementioned Italian variety of cinema, with Lucio Fulci’s 1984 flick I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 (or The New Gladiators as it’s also known)… itself perhaps inspired by King’s narrative.. being the closest spiritual cinematic antecedent.

Nowhere is that more evident in the totally over-the-top look of the films antagonists which are an action figure-ready mix of armed to the teeth techno-Goths who would definitely be at home in Fulci’s production which featured Neo-Gladiators engaging in motorcycle combat and thugs that seemingly strolled in from a community theater production of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange!

Adding to the fun of Arena Wars are some great performances… but for my money the two best turns come from Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) who appears to be having the time of his life as one of the contest’s color commentators, and Johnny Huang (Bridge of the Doomed, also produced by the Mahals and directed by this film’s cinematographer Michael Su… who’s deft camera-work here adds immeasurably to the overall quality experience of the picture) as the film’s comedic relief, Khan… who is entertaining as hell in any scene he’s in.

Additionally look for fun turns from the legendary Eric Roberts (Star 80, Runaway Train) and Mahal regular Robert LaSardo.

Bottom line; Arena Wars is a well-made, action-packed, sci-fi comic book romp that never fails to entertain with a solid blend of ultra-violence and dystopian thrills and chills!


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