The old truism about pizza — that even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good — also applies to Nicolas Cage movies.
Well, most of the time: Arsenal, a low-rent crime thriller that finds the actor lurking in the background with evil intentions and a prosthetic nose that recalls Chris Farley in Dirty Work, treats him like the crust when he should be the topping.
Adrian Grenier and Johnathon Schaech star as two brothers whose difficult upbringings have made them an entrepreneur and a screw-up, respectively, with Cage’s low-level crime boss partially responsible for both. Outfitted in a manner that brings to mind backwater kingpins and flamboyant dictators alike — thick mustache, indoor sunglasses, another bizarre haircut for the collection — he’s once again pumping up the volume to 10 while everyone around him is at a 7. (John Cusack is there too, playing a plainclothes detective whose ground-level insights are signaled by a black bandana and world-weary musings.)
Director Steven C. Miller has more affinity for buckets of blood and slo-mo violence than compelling reasons to care about the people actually bleeding, killing, and dying; when Schaech’s character goes missing and his more well-adjusted bro has no choice but to consider the possibility that he’s in on his own kidnapping and hoping to make some quick cash from the ransom, the main enticement is getting to see Cage go full bore. And he does, gesticulating wildly and assuming an unplaceable accent, but as the only combustible element in this otherwise lackadaisical film, his energy ends up bouncing around with nowhere to go.
Directed by Steven C. Miller
Opens January 6, Cinema Village
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 4, 2017