If you browse the action section of your local DVD rental shop, or take a quick look online through any retailer’s action section, you’re not likely to get five DVDs in before you stumble across a mixed-martial arts flick. They’re saturating the market of late, and as with sudden genre-splurges of this type, there are a fair few well, shit ones. However, now and again you might come upon a gem – “Undisputed II & III”. So where does “Circle of Pain” come in the grand scheme of straight-to-DVD MMA movies?
Probably somewhere in the middle.
It’s not terrible, but it’s not amazing either. Saying that, any expectations of potential amazingness were a long way from my mind, so its final outcome came as no surprise. In short, it ticked all the boxes that I’d laid out for it. Therefore I enjoyed it. It’s trash – make no mistake – but it’s good trash – kind of like finding a porn mag in the woods when you were 12. Good trash.
The ‘story’ follows Dalton Hunt (Tony Schiena), a retired cage-fighter who is lured back into the ring by a bloody annoying bitch played by Ling Bai, to fight the reigning champion – Colin ‘The Brick’ Wahle. So obviously, he finds a bloke with UNORTHODOX TRAINING METHODS THAT YOU’RE NOT GONNA LIKE, BUDDY, to train him. He’s also roommates with Superman (Dean Cain) who he put in a wheelchair by accident years before – his reason for retiring. So basically, it’s a Van Damme movie. Which can only be a good thing. Well, it would have been a great thing if Van Damme was in it, but he’s not – so you’ll have to make do with ‘good’.
Most of the scenes are lifted straight from other (Van Damme) movies, for example, at one point Dalton’s trainer takes him to a bar to ‘train’. Why is he taking him to the bar to train? Why is he getting him pissed?
Van Damme wouldn’t fall for this twice. He’s seen “Kickboxer”.
Yet, regardless of how much is stolen from other movies, I still enjoyed it. I’m easily pleased, but I’m sure most of the people that will rent or buy this will be too. They’ll also probably be male, which is lucky, because the sheer amount of pointless sex and needless women in bikinis walking about the place would have gone to waste otherwise. If at any point you think you might be finding a particular scene with Ling Bai boring, don’t worry, she’s just about to get half-naked. Still bored? Calm down, she’s going to kiss that girl for absolutely no reason whatsoever in a second.
Still, I wasn’t complaining.
There are also loads of fights in the film. They’re not fantastic and there are a lot of instances of obvious ‘throw punch, duck, kick, duck, throw punch, spin around, duck’ choreography, but many of the actors are real MMA fighters, so they can be excused for not being entirely versed in screen fighting. Maybe it would have been easier to just throw them in a ring and film them fighting for real?
As the film comes to climax (OI OI OI), you’ll have guessed the outcome already (I knew what was going to happen as soon as I picked up the DVD), but who cares? It doesn’t carry any pretensions or try to be something it’s not – it’s a stupid film about people beating each other up. A lot.
And Kimbo Slice is in it. This is always welcome.
“Circle of Pain” is out on Region 2 DVD today from Chelsea Films.