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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Circle of Pain

June 10th, 2010

Circle of Pain - DVD or Blu-ray

Circle of Pain is the latest TapouT release. Like most such releases, this one is a direct-to-DVD affair about Mixed Martial Arts, starring real-life MMA fighters and aimed primarily at MMA fans. Will this target demographic appreciate this film? Does it have any crossover appeal? Or is it completely avoidable?

Tony Schiena stars as Dalton Hunt, a former champion and the current record-holder in the Revolution Fight Club league. He hasn't fought in five years after a tragic accident left his friend, Wyatt, in a wheelchair. Now the current champion, Colin "The Brick" Wahle (that's pronounced "Wall") is bad-mouthing him, because he is about to break Dalton's record. Wyatt thinks he should get back into the ring and teach The Brick Wahle a lesson, but Dalton has no interest in going back to fighting. That is until the new owner of the R.F.C., Victoria Rualan, puts some pressure on him. Turns out he has one more fight on his contract, a contract Victoria's father said Dalton was clear of. After the accident, he knew Dalton didn't want to fight anymore and he wasn't going to force him. Victoria isn't as willing to let it go and she's willing to put whatever pressure she can on him, even threatening to evict his ex-wife and their daughter from their home. With no other choice, Dalton must train with Willy, the man that helped Wyatt after the accident, back into fighting shape so he can put on a show.

If a movie tries to rise above its genre, do you compliment it even if it fails? In a movie like this, there's really no need to have a real plot. One of the best of the genre is Bloodsport, which could have had its entire plot (all five minutes of it) removed without effecting the quality at all. All it needs is some cool fight scenes. Circle of Pain tries to be more by giving the film a stronger emotional heart to it. Dalton doesn't want to fight because of accident that cost his friend the use of his legs. However, it is way too heavy-handed to be effective. Instead of being drawn into this man's plight, we just become impatient waiting for the big fight. Speaking of the big fight, (and the numerous little fights that proceed it) the fight choreography is well-done and easily the biggest selling point for the film's target audience. There is the occasional slow-mo shot that gets in the way, and the climax has a rock song playing instead of something more rousing. It makes it feel like a music video and not the climactic scene to a sports movie. Finally, the acting is better than average for this type of movie, which was a nice surprise.

On a side note, Victoria kind of has a point. The cage door did break and at that point the fight should have been halted while the equipment was repaired. Continuing to fight should have resulted in the disqualification of both men. The way she went about it wasn't helping her credibility with the fans, but she was at least partially right.

Extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary with the director, lead actor, and stunt coordinator (Daniel Zirilli, Tony Schiena, and Arnold Chon respectively). Not a high level of energy, but it's not bad either. Up next are seven minutes of interviews with the cast of movie and seven minutes of interviews with some of the real MMA fighters in the movie. Finally, there's a 2-minute look at the choreography of the fight scenes.

I only have the DVD to review and not the Blu-ray, but it doesn't appear to have any Blu-ray exclusive extras. It does cost about 40% more than the DVD, so unless the audio / video transfer is better than its budget would suggest, the DVD is likely just fine.

The Verdict

Circle of Pain should satisfy fans of MMA, but that's it. It tries hard to be more than just a genre film, but it doesn't have the light touch needed to deliver on the more emotional aspects of the script. The DVD and the Blu-ray have better extras than a lot of direct-to-DVD offerings, but unless you are hardcore fan of the genre, it's only worth a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, Circle of Pain