Circle of Pain, 2010.
Directed by Daniel Zirilli.
Starring Tony Schiena, Dean Cain, Bai Ling, Heath Herring and Kimbo Slice.
When a friendly sparring session between an MMA champion and his best buddy goes horribly wrong, a ruthless promoter discovers a golden opportunity to set up a lucrative ‘dream clash’ between him and the fearsome new and undefeated title holder.
As something of an expert in action movies of all levels, I took up the challenge to watch and review Circle of Pain. My first impressions looking at the artwork, were that this would involve fighting and pain. True, and true! I was also under the impression that Kimbo Slice would be the star of the film as he takes centre stage on the cover. However by the time the credits were rolling, Kimbo, who for those who don’t know, is a UFC fighter, had appeared briefly in two scenes. Now you kind of get how little the remainder of the cast are as a selling point for the movie. That may well be harsh on poor old Dean Cain (Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman) who appears in a fairly significant role.
So I plopped in the disc, pretty much knowing what to expect, having seen a vast array of fight based films, from Bloodsport, to eight (yes eight) Bloodfist films. Believe me, when it comes to action films, I’ve taken some punishment, and I’ve done my time. Why? I have no idea! But I’ve seen more Don “The Dragon” Wilson films than any man really should. Circle Of Pain follows a classic formula. Once great fighting champ, who disappeared from the game because of a tragic incident, is called back in for another fight, against the current big dog of the circuit. It’s kind of Rocky Balboa, but with Kimbo Slice (sorry, I just like typing Kimbo Slice, because it’s a brilliant name!) appearing briefly to start a fight with the lead. Of course there’s blackmail to force the reluctant fighter back in, and then we also have obligatory training scenes. Sadly in Circle Of Pain there’s not a torture device in sight, or any bamboo, or even a shot of an eagle who somehow shares a spiritual connection with the lead. It’s all rather uninspiring. The film has no momentum and never really knows how to get from A-B.
Now it is quite clear, that I didn’t think too much of Circle Of Pain. It’s pretty awful. I’ve watched films as bad, some worse, that I actually enjoyed though. The biggest problem is the lead, Tony Schiena. For a time in the late 80’s, and early 90’s, with the dawn of video, any one with a black belt and/or six pack, could become an action star it seemed. To follow in the wake of Van Damme, Seagal and Norris, there were a vast array of kickboxing stars, such as Michael Dudikoff, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Olivier Gruner, Billy Blanks, Gary Daniels, Lorenzo Lamas, Mark Dacascos, Jeff Speakman and Jeff Wincott. Most of these guys were horrible actors true, and often charisma voids as well. However they all had fairly lengthy careers in the video market. Why? Granted there was more demand back then for these kind of films, but also they all had a certain star power with them. Yes I have just said that Jeff Wincott had star power! I don’t care! But he kind of did. Had he not, he would never have done so many action films as a leading man, including a few sequels. Say what you will about Don Wilson as a thespian, but the guy had enough viewers to warrant eight Bloodfist films, two Cybertracker films and two Ring Of Fire films. Tony Schiena however, may well be one of the dullest action men I’ve ever seen. It’s harder to launch yourself these days in comparison to the early 90’s, true, but this guy I’m pretty sure will never have a fan base to sustain himself as a leading action man. He appeared alongside Van Damme in Wake Of Death, and in a supporting role, he wasn’t too bad. I then spotted him in a film, his first leading role, called The Number One Girl, which was even worse than this. It was that film I new for sure, he’d not become the new Lorenzo Lamas (I love name checking B-movie video action stars!). In fact whilst watching this film with my brother we both decided that Tony Schiena is the poor mans Jeff Wincott. Circle of Pain is the first action lead role he’s had since his previous, five years ago.
The remainder of the cast do little to inspire. Dean Cain is okay, but perhaps made to look a lot better than he is due to the other supporting players. He’s got little in the way of character though, playing Wyatt, the best friend of Dalton (Schiena), wheelchair bound after a sparring session between the two got out of hand. Question: Is there anything Ling Bai won’t appear in? This lady is totally fucknuts, and will do appear in as wide a budget range as you can think of. Not only that, despite this film being so pointless and low rent, she still finds time to get her kit off, so it would appear it doesn’t cost much to get Ling Bai out of her clothes. Needless to say she’s terrible in this, though because she’s well known for being nuttier than a squirrel turd in real life, there’s something strangely compelling about her performance at the same time. The antagonist of the piece is played by another UFC fighter, Heath Herring, who though bad, at least managers to come across as a mean S.O.B.
The fight scenes are also disappointing. The trouble is they look slow, cumbersome and rehearsed. This isn’t always a terrible thing in a fight film when it comes to standard Kickboxer style fights. But they’ve gone for UFC style fighting here and there’s none of the blood and thunder, nor intensity of being in the circle of pain. There’s no energy in the fights, and that’s not helped in the slightest by dire editing and poor sound. Films like this normally live or die by their fight scenes. Even if they are completely terrible, there’s something comical to be taken from that. Many a Don the Dragon film has been so bad it’s funny. This film is just plain old, mind numbingly, bad!
All in all, Circle Of Pain isn’t a film to recommend. Not even for die hard action fans, nor even MMA fans. Beer fuelled enjoyment of this piece isn’t even an option for a lads night in. It won’t excite or even (unintentionally) amuse. With a total lack of star power, excitement and originality, this is a rather pointless use of film. Go watch Bloodfist 2 instead.