Arc Entertainment // 2012 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // November 20th, 2012
Jumping a school bus with 7 people 167 feet isn't for everyone. Especially you.
Cheap video cameras are to blame. When filmmakers had to put quarter-million-dollar cameras at risk, stunts were the province of trained professionals working in the context of the movie industry. Then it became possible for just about anyone to own a camera in America. Suddenly, reality TV boomed, and so did stunt-based shows. Jackass is the obvious progenitor of this trend, at least as far as the mainstream is concerned. However, their crazy antics have birthed an entire sub-genre of stunt-driven shows, and one of the more famous is Nitro Circus. However, instead of relying on a bunch of guys with little more than no sense of self-preservation, Nitro Circus takes actual professional athletes/drivers/stunt people (or whatever you call someone who does motocross for a living) and lets them push the envelope of their chosen vehicle. After two seasons on television, the crew finally got a shot at the big screen, and the result is Nitro Circus: The Movie (Blu-ray). It doesn't stack up as well against the Jackass franchise, but fans of vehicular stunts will be pleased.
Nine crazy people willing to push the envelope of what school buses, mountain bikes, monster trucks, and a Ford Mustang can do. We see them talk about a stunt, perform the stunt, then talk about it some more.
I've never been the biggest fan of Jackass, but watching Nitro Circus: The Movie highlighted for me just what I like about that series. In the case of Jackass, there are the kind of crazy stunts we expect from the genre, but the interstitial material works just as much as the major stunts. Because of the anything-goes mentality and the mix of personalities, Jackass tends to work more often than not. In contrast, Nitro Circus tends to only work during the actual stunts. The lead-up tends to be choppy and once the stunt itself is over, the self-congratulation and post-stunt dissections tend to get tedious very quickly. Without the spontaneity of the Jackass crew, Nitro Circus doesn't have the momentum to carry itself between stunts. By the end, the film felt a bit repetitious, even as they built up a performance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Also, unlike the "just-folks" Jackass crew, Nitro Circus gets a very inflated-sounding voiceover that does nothing to help the atmosphere. The team as a team never quite gels the way that the Jackass guys do. I don't know if that's because the Jackass guys were friends first and the Nitro crew haven't been together as long, but it hurts the film that they don't relate as well. It could also be that the film is PG-13, which limits the level of interaction that the team can have as far as drinking beer and cursing like their big-screen brethren.
To be fair, those stunts are really, really impressive. Jumping off of buildings, driving large vehicles over and around obstacles, and doing things (like getting dragged by a rope into water) that are just plain crazy, the team offers lots of visual spectacle. Though not every stunt goes perfectly, there's an artistry to what these guys (and a gal) are able to pull off. Even the premise of some of these stunts are impressive on their own, and the fact that they pull them off as often as not just adds to their power. This will undoubtedly be the draw for those reared on Jackass. Though the stunts are more often stunts on Nitro Circus (as opposed to some of the more pain-oriented "stunts" of Jackass), the film compares favorably to its predecessor in terms of audacity and execution.
For those not persuaded by big rigs jumping things, Nitro Circus also offers some wonderful cinematography. Many of the stunts involving larger vehicles take place in the Utah desert, and the wide-open vistas are impressive to behold. Panama also features prominently in a few places, and its lush greenery is well presented also.
There are also some appearances by celebrities, including Johnny Knoxville and Channing Tatum talking about the Nitro Circus team. These aren't a huge part of the film, but it's kind of fun to see how the team's brand has travelled outside their small world of stunts.
This DVD of Nitro Circus is also a solid way to see the film. Shot in HD and presented in its native 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the anamorphic transfer looks pretty good. Detail is generally strong, colors pop, and compression artifacts and noise aren't a serious problem. The 5.1 surround track is aggressive, though well-balanced. The use of music and voiceover are complimentary, and some surround use is evident during the stunts.
This DVD includes a short interview with Jackass's Steve-O and a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes that give us some more background on a few stunts.
Big fans of the flick, however, should note that not everything is included in this DVD edition. A multi-disc Blu-ray version of the film is also available. That edition includes a 3D Blu-ray of the film, its 2D version, and a handful of additional extras. The lack of 3D on this DVD is a bit of a disappointment, but doesn't hurt the film significantly.
Nitro Circus is a fine example of post-Jackass insanity. Grouping together a bunch of professional types to engage in death-defying stunts, the film will satisfy those who've been missing out on stunts since the last Jackass flick came out. Those who don't want to see a bunch of people risk their lives should look elsewhere, though even fans of Jackass might give this one a miss due to the lack of group chemistry. Finally, real fans of the flick will likely want to pick up the tricked-out Blu-ray edition for the 3D version and extra bonus features.
Not guilty, but I wouldn't ride if one of the Nitro people was behind
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Arc Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13