Plot: What’s it about?
As I mention below, Circus is a picture filled from top to bottom with surprises, which means this review could ruin those surprise elements. The twists and turns are what power this film and if I reveal them here, it would lessen the experience for first time viewers, which is not cool in the least. So instead of giving some examples of the cool surprises found in Circus, I’ll just say that there’s a lot of them, from start to finish. And as such, this means providing a very slim synopsis, so if you wanted more in this area, sorry to disappoint you in this respect. Leo (John Hannah) and his wife Lily (Famke Janssen) want to escape from the doldrums of small time crime, so they make plans to get one last scam. This is no normal scam however, as it is the largest and most complicated scam ever, which means there’s a lot of chances for disaster to strike. As the plan starts to come together and later unfold, a wealth of people become involved and soon, no one is sure who to trust and as such, nothing is certain and no one is safe.
This flick is loaded with more twists, turns, and double crosses than I’ve ever seen, but it makes sure you’re always able to take stock in what happens. In other words, this one moves at a fast pace and shifts lanes a lot, but it never does so without the viewer, so you can keep up with the action, if you pay attention. A lot of twists include plot movements, character changes, double dealings, and even more antics, movies don’t get much more complicated than Circus, I can tell you that much. This ends up being a good flick, but it never moves above and beyond that level, so this by no means a great film. The storyline asks us to believe some wild twists and the characters seem to spread very thin, but these are elements I can overlook, as I do in many movies. But while the writing and acting is more than solid here, things never reach for more and leaves me to think this could have been better, but ended up just good. In the realm of British gangster flicks, Circus falls right into the middle and as such, I recommend it as a rental to those interested.
I think Rob Walker makes a more than solid feature film debut here, although the complex nature of the film does reveal his weaker areas. As a first time director at this level, Walker seems to be in control most of the time and gives Circus some great visual presence, only to be dragged down at times by the material. The constant flips and spins don’t allow Walker to settle down much, which means we never see much of his real style, since he is forced to change gears often. But his grasp on the position is evident, as he puts all the elements together very well, given the film’s nature and his inexperience. I hope to see more films from Walker soon, as I think he shows real potential with this, his debut picture. The cast of Circus includes Famke Janssen (Goldeneye, Rounders), Tiny Lister (Little Nicky, No Holds Barred), Eddie Izzard (The Avengers, Mystery Men), Amanda Donohoe (Liar Liar, I’m Losing You), Brian Conley (West is West), Peter Stormare (Armageddon, The Lost World: Jurassic Park), Fred Ward (Tremors, Short Cuts), and John Hannah (The Mummy, Sliding Doors).
Video: How does it look?
Circus is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As usual, Columbia/Tristar issues a fine looking image, with minimal flaws to discuss. A few of the darker scenes show a couple problems, but not enough to spoil the fun and as such, I won’t knock the score much. On the whole, the contrast is even and well balanced, with no signs of detail loss I could detect. I was pleased with the colors also, which show vivid hues and no bleeds, while flesh tones look natural and consistent also. I could see some slight grain at times and a couple compression issues, but this is still a top notch transfer and deserves a good overall score.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 option and man, what a powerhouse experience it offers for this material. The musical soundtrack is a rockin’ one and it sounds great in this mix, but the surrounds see much more action than the tunes, I assure you. This material has a plethora of tense moments and this track ensures they have strong audio atmosphere, thanks a lot of well placed surround use and good mixing methods with the music. But all is not well here, as a few scenes have somewhat lost dialogue, thanks to the vocals being mixed a little low. Not all scenes have such low dialogue levels however, so I won’t be too harsh with the score here. This disc also includes 2.0 surround tracks in English and French, as well as subtitles in those two languages. The case mentions additional subtitle options, but rest assured, English and French are the only ones provided on this release.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Although this disc is not a full blown special edition, it does have a nice amount of extras, so there’s some good value with this release. To start off we have an audio commentary track, which features producer James Gibb and writer David Logan, which proves to be a decent effort. I do the two focuses more on information on the production and such, but their comments still offer enough to give the track a spin. A few silent spaces can be heard, as well as some stretches of on screen description, but fans of the film will want to give this one a listen, flaws and all. This disc also includes some deleted scenes, a brief behind the scenes featurette, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer, very cool stuff indeed.