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Circus (February 24/02)

Circus is yet another one of those super-convoluted, hyper-confusing crime thrillers. Despite some creative casting and a few good twists, Circus never manages to rise above its muddled screenplay.

John Hannah stars as a career criminal (he's done four stints behind bars) pursuing that ever elusive and all-too-popular "last job." Along with his girlfriend (Famke Janssen), he wants to spend the rest of his days lazing about on a beautiful beach somewhere. Of course, nobody else in his circle of friends and associates wants him to take off - leading to many instances of different folks either setting him up or just plain ol' trying to kill him. Scams and ploys are laid out, though most are never fully explained. What you thought was happening in one sequence invariably turns out to have been a ruse. Nothing is what it seems in Circus, and that's not a good thing.

Random spurts of hardcore violence aside, there's really not much worth recommending about Circus - yet the movie remains oddly compelling, even when it's not making sense (which is most of the time). Chalk it up to some charismatic actors and exotic locales, because it's certainly not the story that's going to hold your interest. Among the quirky cast, British comedian Eddie Izzard is a standout as the pop-song singing gangster. Whenever he accosts and brutalizes Hannah's character, he's singing (badly) a recognizable tune (like House of the Rising Sun or Another One Bites the Dust). Eccentric characters like that make Circus tolerable (Peter Stormare, as a supposedly meek accountant, is also a lot of fun), if entirely forgettable once it's over.

Hannah and Janssen are expectedly good, but really, how many crime flicks like this do we really need? It doesn't really add anything new to the genre, except perhaps widespread confusion among audiences. But it's diverting enough to warrant a rental.

out of

© David Nusair