Directed by: Steven C. Miller | 93 minutes | thriller | Actors: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Adrian Grenier, Johnathon Schaech, Heather Johansen, Lydia Hull, Abbie Gayle, Carrie Jo Hubrich, William Mark McCullough, Christopher Coppola, Vivian Benitez, Tyler Jon Olson, Tamara Belous, Megan Leonard, Christopher Rob Bowen
With a wife, a baby boy and a successful construction company, JP (Adrian Grenier) leads a quiet life. The contrast with his older brother Mikey (Johnathon Schaech) could not be greater. Divorced, broke, and often involved in fights, Mikey does odd jobs for Eddie King (Nicolas Cage), a local mobster. Yet the bond between the brothers is close. When they were teenagers Mikey took care of his little brother, nowadays the roles are reversed and JP regularly helps his big brother out of the fire.
Then JP learns from police officer friend Sal (John Cusack) that Mikey has scored a kilo of coke and plans to trade it. It doesn’t come to that, because the coke is stolen during a rip deal. When Mikey turns to Eddie for help, the trouble really starts. The mobster devises a plan to make up for the lost income, but that requires Mikey to trick his brother. The next day, JP receives a threatening phone call: a distorted voice tells him that Mikey has been kidnapped and that he needs $350,000 to get him out. Together with Sal, he tries to collect the requested amount and track down the kidnappers, but is everything as it seems?
With a tighter script ‘Arsenal’ would have turned out to be a decent action movie. There are elements that work excellently, such as the relationship between JP and Mikey, which is portrayed with surprising subtlety by director Steven C. Miller. A feast of recognition for anyone who sometimes has a problem with a brother or sister: the warmth of the shared past, the urge to protect, but also the simmering competition and the unintentional being sucked into the problems of the other. Unfortunately, the focus wanes as the film progresses. For example, Miller takes a side path to gangster Eddie, who also has a difficult relationship with his brother, albeit of a different order. That makes for absurdist mat parts that are both brutal and hilarious, but don’t fit the tone of the rest of the film.
Nicolas Cage clearly has fun pulling out all the stops in ‘Arsenal’. It’s hard to take him seriously in his flower pot wig, sticky mustache and party-store suits until he flaps his fists and lets the blood spurt in slow globs from wide open mouths. For many, his bold role is undoubtedly the film’s seasoning, but where the combination of drama, humor and over-the-top violence in a series like ‘Fargo’ turned out to be a golden opportunity, in ‘Arsenal’ it is an uneasy marriage. . In addition, the twists are not always logical. Although the film is occasionally moving and provides the necessary WTF moments, the dominant feeling is mainly: what should we do with this? And that makes it another typical Nicolas Cage film.