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Steve Armstrong is a human short-order cook in a fast food restaurant on a "starstation" where the most popular arena fighting tournament in the whole galaxy is held. Members of various alien species fight one on one, often dirty, to become the ruling champions of the galaxy. The restaurant's sole waiter and Steve's boss is Shorty, a short four-armed scheming humanoid alien. When Steve saves Shorty from a particularly unpleasant and violent alien guest, they're both fired by the restaurant's automated A.I. for brawling. Shorty shows gratitude and they become friends. However, without jobs, they'll both be kicked off the space station. Thankfully, Quinn, a human female no-nonsense fighting promoter, who's in quick need of new fighters, hears about Steve's fight with the alien guest and offers him sponsorship. Human fighters have traditionally been defeated easily by naturally tougher alien fighters in previous tournaments and Steve would be a real underdog. Shorty manages to convince ...
Filmed in Italy by Charles Bands' Empire Pictures company, the likably cheese ball movie "Arena" is good fun for an undemanding viewer, comfortably predictable and with the usual assortment of good guys and bad guys. It's your basic tournament-based action flick, but with a twist: it takes place in a sci-fi setting, and most of the fighters are alien monsters. The champion among them is an egomaniac named Horn (Michael Deak, "Abominable"). Our hero is nice guy Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield, "Creepshow 2"), who only really wants to return to Earth. But when he needs to come up with some money in a hurry to pay off a smooth criminal, Rogor (Marc Alaimo, "Tango & Cash"), he agrees to participate in the tournament.
One gets no prizes for guessing what ultimately develops in this script, written by Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo, the guys who concocted "Trancers" among other comedies and genre pictures. But there's still a reasonable amount of fun to be had in watching this stuff. You sure don't have to spend any time exercising your brain. You just enjoy the comedy, the sets, the basically decent acting, and the impressive display of masks and makeup effects created by John Carl Buechler and company. There's a lot of variety in their work. Also lending his abilities is unsung talent Screaming Mad George. The fighting is never exactly that great, but it is good for some laughs here and there.
Supporting Satterfield are a group of familiar faces. Hamilton Camp ("Evilspeak") is four armed Shorty, Steves' loyal sidekick. The stunning Claudia Christian ('Babylon 5', "The Hidden") and Shari Shattuck ("The Naked Cage", 'The Young and the Restless') as irresistible eye candy, Armin Shimerman as Weezil (buried under heavy makeup a couple of years before beginning to play his signature role of Quark in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine'), William Butler ("Night of the Living Dead" '90) as Skull, and legendary comedian Jack Carter as an enthusiastic announcer. Shattuck also gets to perform two songs.
Overall, an amusing 94 minute long diversion.
Six out of 10.
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