Lionsgate // 2010 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 15th, 2010
Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.
Circle of Pain. A better, more literal, description for this DVD I can not conjure.
One-time stud MMA fighter Dalton Hunt (Tony Schiena) has been enjoying a quiet, retired life, working construction and visiting his kids and estranged wife. The hotshot director of a mixed martial arts league (Bai Ling) has found a loophole in Dalton's old contract, which forces him to take part in one more fight. His opponent: the undefeated world champion of course.
There is nothing surprising about this movie except for one thing: about two-thirds of the way through it turns into a Cinemax softcore skin flick for a few minutes. Then it's back to the grind, an action film that is stuffed with familiarities and genre conventions, right up to the completely predictable Final Showdown with the Invincible Super Champion that ends in the Inspiring Final Stand where the Plucky Underdog Hero finds his Courageous Strength Within and delivers the Stunning Final Blow, putting the final touches on his Inspiring Story of Inspiration.
You've seen this all before, likely with fewer boobs and more action. Tony Schiena is serviceable as the protagonist, though he's given a thankless meatsuit to inhabit. It's the "washed-up fighter" character and it's not his fault he's playing a role totally emaciated in the hand-to-hand genre. He's brawny and fairly charismatic and looks to be able to take care of himself in an (on-screen) fight.
But that's as much as I'm prepared to offer as far as accolades go. Circle of Pain is lame excursion into territory that's been plowed many, many time before. There's the reluctant hero, the deranged bad guy, the eccentric trainer, the wheelchair-bound sidekick and the mandatory training montage, which, like Rocky 4 also happens on a farm!
The one big wrinkle is the aforementioned sexcapades, which actually shouldn't surprise anyone who's watched these TapOut/MMA movies. There's a game-plan the films follow: iffy in-ring fight scenes, clichéd narratives and copious nudity. I suppose that's the niche these guys want to carve out for their motion picture empire and more power to them. Too bad that their films seem to be getting progressively worse.
The DVD is fine, sporting an effective 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a well-performing 5.1 surround mix. Extras: commentary with director Daniel Zirilli, actor Tony Schiena and stunt coordinator Arnold Chon,; interviews with the cast and crew; and a featurette on the fight choreography.
Kimbo Slice is featured prominently on the cover and gets top billing but he's essentially doing an extended cameo.
If you dig what TapOut has been doing (over and over and over) with its film properties, there's nothing I can say to deter you from watching this thoroughly underperforming actioner.
I tap out.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R