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Reviewed February 25th, 2002 by David Nusair


Circus is yet another one of those super-convoluted, hyper-confusing crime thrillers. Despite some creative casting and a few good twists, Circus never manages to rise above its muddled screenplay.

John Hannah stars as a career criminal (heís done four stints behind bars) pursuing that ever elusive and all-too-popular ďlast job.Ē Along with his girlfriend (Famke Janssen), he wants to spend the rest of his days lazing about on a beautiful beach somewhere. Of course, nobody else in his circle of friends and associates wants him to take off Ė leading to many instances of different folks either setting him up or just plain olí trying to kill him. Scams and ploys are laid out, though most are never fully explained. What you thought was happening in one sequence invariably turns out to have been a ruse. Nothing is what it seems in Circus, and thatís not a good thing.

Random spurts of hardcore violence aside, thereís really not much worth recommending about Circus Ė yet the movie remains oddly compelling, even when itís not making sense (which is most of the time). Chalk it up to some charismatic actors and exotic locales, because itís certainly not the story thatís going to hold your interest. Among the quirky cast, British comedian Eddie Izzard is a standout as the pop-song singing gangster. Whenever he accosts Hannahís character, heís singing (badly) a recognizable tune (like House of the Rising Sun or Another One Bites the Dust) Ė while brutalizing Hannah. Eccentric characters like that make Circus tolerable (Peter Stormare, as a supposedly meek accountant, is also a lot of fun), if entirely forgettable once itís over.

Hannah and Janssen are expectedly good, but really, how many crime flicks like this do we really need? It doesnít really add anything new to the genre, except perhaps widespread confusion among audiences. But itís diverting enough to warrant a rental.

Audio: Circusí 5.1 DD soundtrack is efficient and effective, though nothing terribly special. This is a dialogue based picture and as such, much of the action remains squarely in the front speakers. However, the few forays into surround sound effects (such as the occasional shoot out) are handled quite well by the disc, and may just convince you that youíre actually there.

Video: The video transfer is equally affable. This 1.85:1 transfer gets the job done, but nothing more than that. Colors seem subdued, but that may be due to the film stock or lens filter used. Artifacting is almost nil, though darker scenes are a tad problematic.

Extras: First up is a commentary track with writer David Logan and co-producer James Gibb. This isnít the best track, though itís not the worst either. The two mostly describe whatís occurring on screen, rather than the motivations behind it. Nothing special here. Next is a set of deleted scenes, all of which run quite short. Nothing earth-shattering or even relevant to the plot to be found within, so itís easy enough to see why the were excised. Rounding out the package are a six-minute promo piece on the making of the movie (very poor, even by EPK standards), a trailer (along with trailers for Snatch and Girlfight), and some filmographies.

Conclusion: Circus may be worth checking out if youíre a fan of someone in the cast, but really, thereís nothing here you havenít seen before.


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