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Bruno, a sadistic criminal, wants clever con man Leo out of the way. Leo and his equally clever wife, Lily, are up to something. So too is Julius: he hires Leo to kill Gloria, Julius's wife. Leo does it, but then Julius shows up with the murder on tape, saying Gloria isn't his wife - it's blackmail. Leo's bookie, Troy, is also closing in, wanting to be paid. Bruno and Lily as well as Bruno and Julius have their own scams running, and Leo is their target. Maybe Leo can get Troy off his back, avoid Moose (Bruno's huge enforcer), send Gloria's corpse out of England, turn the tables on Bruno's murderous brother Caspar, and outfox Lily. Or is Lily his fox? It's a three-ring circus. Written by
Ladies and gentlemen... we present in the centre ring... a mess.
"Circus" was barely released in cinemas even in Britain and, from what I understand, skipped US cinemas despite its Columbia backing. It's an okay watch for cable at 3 a.m. (which, interestingly enough, is when I watched it), but that's about it.
The movie's scuppered by the ludicrous casting of comedian Brian Conley as a gangster who we see taking a bite of a man's ear in the beginning; he comes off as too playground-villainous to take seriously, and the rest of the movie is just as plausible (tip: do not go and attack and/or threaten people when there are witnesses around, a piece of advice ignored TWICE in the course of the movie). David Logan's script needed some stronger direction and a bit of restraint, instead of piling double-cross upon double-cross until it's soon hard to tell just what the hell's going on, culminating in an "Oh-for-God's-sake!" ending.
"Circus" is diverting enough, but a waste of John Hannah, a bigger waste of Fred Ward, something of a waste of Amanda Donohoe, and an absolutely criminal waste of Famke Janssen (who is not only super-fit but, unlike Conley, actually CAN be convincingly tough - it's impossible to believe she appeared in both this and "X-Men" in 2000 ... then again, she did do "House on Haunted Hill"). What she was doing in this movie we can only speculate; did she fancy a trip to Brighton? Or is she a secret fan of "Rebus"? Or "The Brian Conley Show"?
And one more piece of advice - don't go mentioning "The Sweet Smell Of Success" in your movie, unless you really want to draw unfair comparisons. Mind you, it's preferable to actually going to a circus; I never liked the things.
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