The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Circle of Pain (2010)

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About a month ago I reviewed a film called Locked Down. In the comments section of that post, two things happened. First, our friend Ty at comeuppance reviews, gave us the term "punchfighting movie" when describing this UFC/TapOut sub-genre of low-budget martial arts films, complete with the tatted bruisers, songs performed by Disturbed derivatives, and sea-sickness inducing MTV film edits. Second, our friend Jason over at elementarybeatboxoperator,storylike made the joke that he might handle these films better while under the influence of Mountain Dew. And thus the Punchfighting Movie Mountain Dew Doritos Experiment was born.

I decided to go back to my movie watching roots for this one. On a recent free day, after my morning walk and a quick shower, I planted myself on the couch and had Mountain Dew and Doritos for lunch-- that's it-- while I watched two recent Punchfighting movie efforts, Circle of Pain and Beatdown. Below is a picture of what I put into my system:

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And no, Mr. Anonymous from Unrivaled, it wasn't this:

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Before I get into the review, let me just say that I was ill equipped physically to deal with the ramifications of what a lunch of Mountain Dew and Doritos meant. I was lightheaded, felt some tingling in my left arm, and thought on numerous occasions that I might have what the competitive eaters call a "reversal of fortune". As late as midnight-- twelve hours later!-- I was still feeling these effects. I know as a blogger the idea is that junk food is considered an average meal for us in our parents' basements; but in the real world, as an actual person, I'm too far removed from my college days when I used to pull this kind of shit and get away with it. My body just doesn't find it funny anymore.

Anyway, so here we are, onto Circle of Pain. It stars rising Punchfighting guy Tony Schiena (Locked Down) as a former fighter who broke his buddy Dean Cain's back with a spin kick (believe me, it was hilarious). Five years later, Bai Ling, who runs the MMA outfit Schiena used to fight for, decides that he needs to fight again against her champ, Heath Herring. She twists his arm by evicting Schiena's baby mama and daughter out of the house Ling provided for them, somehow circumventing any landlord/tenant laws in the process. Now Schiena must overcome his regrets for what he did to his buddy and climb back into that ring triumphant.

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I don't know if it was the Mountain Dew or what, but this wasn't too bad. Yes, the scene where Schiena breaks Cain's back is hilarious, and the flashbacks after are even better-- "I play that moment back in my mind, just thinking 'why didn't I kick him a little higher!'" The fight scenes outside of the ring were pretty clunky, like the one with Kimbo Slice, pretty much just wait, punch punch, wait, punch punch, wait, kick, block, throw, repeat; but the final fight inside the ring was great, one of the best MMA dramatizations we've seen in this sub-genre. Also, it was refreshingly light on the MTV gimmicky camera effects. Schiena in the featurette called it the "Rocky of MMA", which is what Unrivaled technically was too, but this was much better. The plot didn't stray too far and get weird on us, and Bai Ling as the MMA organization president was too perfect for words in my opinion. I would say it's more Rocky V than Rocky, but it was a good Rocky V.

Tony Schiena worked better here as the hero than he did in Locked Down, though I have to say he didn't work in the latter more because of the convoluted plot that made him act in awkward scenes than it was him. I do love that he always speaks in these breathy tones, like he's an obscene caller or something. "Hey Dean Cain, do you know who this is? What're you wearing? Are you wearing corduroy? Ooh, I can hear you swish swishing around the house as we speak..." He's a great fighter though, so hopefully he'll get more and better work.

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Speaking of the devil, Dean Cain plays a paraplegic. In the featurette, he said he wanted this role because he knew people who were paralyzed, and he saw how they lived very full lives in spite of their disabilities. That brings in an interesting question: is that good enough for you Dean Cain fans out there? What I mean is, is not seeing him fight that much enough for you, if you find out after the fact why he took the role he did? It's one of those things about the featurette, because it explains a lot, but do you except the explanations if you were looking for something else? I was fine with it, even before finding out about why, but that's just me.

One of my favorite MMAers, Frank Mir, has a small, clunky cameo where he gets his ass kicked by Heath Herring. Again, in the featurette, we find out he was just doing it to get his feet wet in the acting world. I'm good with him doing that, but by putting his name on the cover, it's a bait-and-switch. Also, his fight scene wasn't very good at all. Wait, punch punch, wait, knee knee, throw. If he's going to go the next level and get a bigger part, I'd say make him a cyborg or something that throws people a lot and breaks their arms with nasty jiu-jitsu holds. That would rule. As an aside, the background of his one scene is a sick Shelby Cobra-- at least I think it is, I don't know cars that well.

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Bai Ling was awesome, and if you see her in the featurette, she's even more awesome. The first thing she says is "this movie is better than drugs, alcohol, or anything else you're taking." Umm, Bai, what exactly do you think I'm taking? Oh wait, that's right, Mountain Dew. Then she says the director was a genius for casting her, because she was playing a part made for a white man. Simply beautiful. I could have done with her in a better haircut, and the leopard print nail polish was a little bit much, but otherwise, she totally sold it. It was one of the elements that elevated this from the run-of-the-mill Punchfighting film.

All right, so final verdict, clunky fights, but a really amazing last one; a pretty funny storyline, especially when you see the actual kick to the back; a script that uses the word "fucking" as its go-to verb; yet also a great Bai Ling; and a hero who speaks in breathy tones but is a solid fighter and a guy worth rooting for. It's the Rocky V of MMA films, which isn't so bad a deal. Again, maybe it was the Mountain Dew that made me lighten up, but I didn't hate this.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1541664/

8 comments:

  1. I too loved the flashback scenes of Dean Cain getting his back broken- totally forgot about that until reading your review. Yes, Bai Ling was hilarious too, my only gripe, of course, is that- I don't know if it ws the lighting or what- she had the body of a 12 year old for some reason in her naked scenes. Gene Generation? Hot cyberpunk. The Crow? Smoking hot shower scene with the closeup on her asscrack and back tattoo. That Adrian Paul vampire movie I can't remember the name of (Breeders maybe?)? Hot. Also loved the whole poor man's Wade Garret they threw in to train the hero.

    Yeah, mountain dew very well may have made this better for you- speaking of age, you're only a year older than me and your body can't handle the effects of this crap anymore? Wow! Makes me scared for myself, because I still put this shit in my body on a regular basis- maybe that's why I like some of the movies I like?

    As far as Easy Mac- not really a fan, my preference is for the Kraft box with the cheese sauce, which is so much better than that microwavable abomination.

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  2. My 4-year-old nephew actually loves the EasyMac stuff, so that's why I have it. I agree, I'm more of a boxed deal too. Plus, in Maine, people like to make lobster mac and cheese. I think that's a little too indulgent for my tastes-- I'll settle for Tabasco sauce.

    The Breed is the Adrian Paul movie you were talking about. Yes, Bai Ling is very skinny, and as much as it takes an inspired director like this one to cast her as the baddie, in a Punchfighting movie, where these people are used to shooting only one type of woman, they aren't as equipped to make the most of Bai Ling's unique assets.

    I'm glad you brought up the poor man's Wade Garrett, because I captured an image of the dude, but forgot to bring him up in the review. He was great.

    I think the thing with my reaction to the Mountain Dew Doritos lunch was two-fold. First, it was pretty much all I had to eat that day until after the second film. I had a light breakfast, but that was it. It would have been a different story I think had I snacked on that stuff after a more substantial meal. I used to be able to eat Moutain Dew and Doritos for lunch, though, so my body's reaction was a surprise. Second, I really don't drink Mountain Dew-- or any soda for that matter-- anymore, and I really don't do any sugar either. That mix of sugar and caffeine must have done a number on my system, especially with only Doritos in it. It was a surprise to me just how much my system didn't enjoy what I did to it, though. It was like the guy in Super Size Me. Maybe the lesson is, at our age, once we take time off from food and drink like this, the body is less inclined to let us go back to it.

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  3. Happy you enjoyed Circle Of Pain! I like that Tapout keeps putting out these punch-fighting movies.

    Looking forward to your review of Beatdown. It is on my netflix queue.

    Also Tony Schiena and Vinnie Jones were in another movie together: The Number One Girl. (also Pat Morita makes an appearance.) Pretty poor action flick but Vinnie has his moments. There is some punchfighting towards the end...they really make you wait for it.

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  4. I've seen trailers to Number One Girl, in particular in that Jerry Springer film Citizen Verdict. I know Netflix has it, so that's a bonus in its favor.

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  5. I also forgot about Tony Schiena's "breathy tones" (haven't watched it since this came out a couple of months ago, and seen three or four punchfighting movies since then)- I distinctly recall not being able to tell what nationality he was or anything, because one minute he sounded like he was from France, and the next he sounded like Jason Patric in rebellious vampire Lost Boys mode. I think Gaspar came out much better in 'Beatdown' than Mir did in this, but to be fair, he was the co star- he was very 'Guy Ritchie' limey in it.

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  6. Yeah, I thought he was Scottish or English, but imdb doesn't say. Another thing I forgot to mention in the post was Schiena's sex scene where he kept his pants on-- and then Heath Herring's partner in crime having sex through the trap door in his pants. There was a lot more weirdness going on in this film than I recalled as I wrote it.

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  7. Sorry, Bisping, not Gaspar. LOL Baby brain. Yeah, the sex scenes with the guys keeping their pants on is hilarious- but even though it's kind of weird, I'd rather that than man-ass; not everyone is JCVD.

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  8. I will give you that. You'd think these directors would be more familiar with Skin-a-max techniques of blocking certain elements. I mean, the dude corking the chick in the kitchen through his trap door easily could have been obscured by an island, or a nicely placed bar stool-- maybe a bread basket.

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