No New Tricks Under the Big Top
Directed by Rob Walker
Written by David Logan
Starring John Hannah, Famke Janssen, Eddie Izzard
Classification: NA
Rating: **


 For a movie that crept into town under cover of darkness - zero publicity, no advance screening, confined to a single theatre among hundreds - Circus isn't half bad. In fact, it's only about three-eighths bad, which puts it a sizable cut above a lot of flicks that open with the brightest spotlight and the heaviest hype. In the annals of relative deprivation, it beats the bejabbers out of Godzilla.


Apply a more rigorous yardstick, however, and here's the basic problem: This is a British film trying to hop on the Quentin Tarantino bandwagon long after it stalled. The homage starts smack in the opening frame, when an oily mob boss (Brian Conley) chomps the ear off some terrified schnook who's late on his loan payments. Given the setting in the English resort of Brighton, the scene unfolds with a distinct Anglo accent, but there's no mistaking the derivation - think of it as Reservoir Canines.

From there, the screenplay plunges us into all manner of noirish doings. At the tale's scheming centre is the married duo of Lily and Leo Garfield - the very names harken back to movies past. The wily hubby (John Hannah) is a compulsive gambler cum devilishly clever fellow; his sexy wife (Famke Janssen) is the kind of cucumber-cool babe who puts the fatale in femme. And the gal's got quite the lip too. When that mob boss insists that the high-rolling Leo take over the running of his primo casino, she snaps: "It's kind of like asking Hannibal
Lecter to fix lunch."

Anyway, cue the double and triple-crosses. Apparently, our ultra-smart gambler is engaged in a major-league con. I say "apparently" with an embarrassed blush: You need a brain of Leo's size to keep up with the plot's multiple twists; otherwise, they defy comprehension. None of this bothers director Rob Walker, who seems content to layer in more cinematic quotes (Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai gets a sizeble mention) and then to confuse us even further by occasionally stutter-stepping the time frame (yep, just like his hero Quentin).

By now, the thoroughly perplexed viewer is left to sit back and enjoy the scenery, which takes the usual human form of an assortment of wacky thugs. Like the vicious bookie (Eddie Izzard) with the charming habit of warbling pop tunes while he pounds out his miscreant clients. Or how about the immense black guy ("Tiny" Lister) whose car of choice is a teensy Morris Minor - shoehorning himself out of the thing, he looks like a one-man circus act.

Which brings us back to the title, and the picture's chronic flaw: From the centre ring to the many side shows, there's just way too much going on here. For its collective part, the cast holds up remarkably well amid the frenzy. The British talent pool has always been deep, and this is no exception. The Scotsman Hannah is especially adroit, rising above the clutter to show off a heretofore unrevealed side of his screen persona - the dapper dan, Cary Grant with a burr. Ultimately, though, even the best performances sink under the sheer weight of
the script's imitative bulk. And maybe (showing uncommon sense) that's why Circus eschewed the standard publicity route - why bother to hype a film that we've seen a hundred times before?

 

 

 

 

CONFUSING CAPER
MUDDLED PLOT TURNS HOMAGE TO FILM NOIR INTO A 3-RING `CIRCUS'


John Petrakis
Special to the Chicago Tribune
September 18, 2000

Caper films have been a staple of the British cinema dating to the days of such Ealing Studios classics as "The Lavender Hill Mob." It has something to do, I think, with the working class

jargon, the colorful exteriors and a specific, if gaudy, taste in fashion.

But the difficulty in creating a good caper movie is that it must be complex enough to keep us involved, filled with all sorts of clever asides and surprises, but clear and well written enough to pay off when the climax rolls around.

"Circus" is certainly complex enough. In fact, it is downright convoluted. It spins a tale with so many double-crosses and triple-crosses that by the end we don't know who we can trust or what has transpired, and as you can probably guess, we don't really care.

The story revolves around Leo and Lily Garfield (John Hannah and Famke Janssen), a Nick and Nora Charles for the new millennium, a pair of stylish con-artists who long to make the proverbial "last big score" and take a slow boat to Cuba. But first, they must fleece the sadistic gang boss, Bruno, and his enforcer cousin, Casper, while also dealing with a massive black hit man, a pop song-crooning loan shark, a two-timing hooker, and a too-late-to-the-ball accountant who gets a fashion makeover from Lily before getting up the nerve to cook the books.

And if that's not difficult enough (and in this movie, nothing ever is), Lily is also being pursued from across the sea by the curiously monikered Elmo Somerset, whom Lily double-crossed years earlier when she was still a Bonnie to his Clyde.

 The movie is thick with atmospheric English goodies, including Leo and Lily's gigantic loft apartment, which looks like something Capt. Ahab might have designed. Also fun are many of the shady locations, which tend to be lit by strategically placed neon lights.

But despite its visual vitality, as it pays obvious homage to film noir excesses, "Circus" is simply too cute for its own good. When the final twist has been turned and the last corpse has hit the ground, it is a film that could have been twice as good if it had been half as complicated.

'Circus': Hysterics in a 3-Ring Something or Other
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER | NY Times

If an Olympic competition for overplotted movie is ever held, "Circus" seems a likely contender for the gold.

Even the most hardhearted judge is likely to award it a perfect score for self-awareness well into the proceedings when a big goon called Moose (Tiny Lister) says, "I don't understand what's going on."

Spectators have every right to agree, even when the plot is hastily explained at some length toward the finish. Nevertheless, as in a circus of the three-ring kind, this "Circus" offers plenty to watch: the bloody ear biting by a man who isn't even Mike Tyson, the dog on the treadmill, the bare-breasted masseuse, the homage to Orson Welles's "Lady From Shanghai," the garroting of a woman (Amanda Donohoe) in a lovely manor house, the barbecuing (to onlookers' cheers) of thick steaks in an England still sensitive about its outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalitis and the seedy seaside charm of Brighton.

And all these details are subsidiary to the main event, based on a screenplay by David Logan and directed by Rob Walker, in which gangsters and grifters and various subspecies of their ilk are double- and triple-crossing one another from start to finish.

The plot seems to have something to do with Bruno (Brian Conley), a big-time British lowlife whose embezzling

accountant (the one who loses an ear before dying) has gotten him in tax troubles that prompt him to conceive a swindle involving the sale of his shipping company and the transfer of millions of dollars to a safe haven in the Cayman Islands.

This scheme enmeshes the film's most intelligent and appealing character, Leo (John Hannah, the Scottish actor who was so good as the bereaved gay lover in "Four Weddings and a Funeral"). Leo and his wife, Lily (the appealing Famke Jannsen), a gangster's moll with a history of duplicity, are planning to "do the whole Ernest Hemingway- type thing" in Cuba just as soon as Leo pulls off one last job, a murder for hire.

But is Lily what she seems? After all, practically nobody else in "Circus" is. Nearly everybody seems to be betraying everybody else. Mr. Hannah and Miss Janssen are fun to watch in a gallery of colorful characters; just don't expect much sense from all the clowns in this "Circus."

Brighton rocks | Guardian UK review

Izzardcircus.gif (6854 bytes)



Hush hush reports on Eddie Izzard's turn as a sadistic bookmaker, and Lock, Stock and two sprouting marrows - Britain's first gardening movie

Tuesday June 22, 1999

Brighton's crumbling West Pier may not be up to much these days, but as an atmospheric backdrop, it succeeds effortlessly. Circus, an Anglo-American "hip crime thriller" starring Eddie Izzard, Amanda Donohoe and John Hannah, has just finished filming in the vicinity, which, it transpires, is also the stamping-ground of first-time screenwriter David Logan.

Co-financed by Columbia Pictures and the Fim Development Corporation, the 3 million movie is quite a coup for 30-year-old ex-video-store-attendant, Logan. If his break into the film world sounds familiar, Hush Hush was intrigued to hear that his original screenplay "has a touch of Tarantino about it".

It's certainly eclectically cast: from Dutch Bond babe, to TV trouper Brian Conley (making his film debut, we were grandly told), director Rob Walker's team of "completely dodgy" wheelers and dealers is a singular mixed bag.

The wizard Izzard has turned in a super-serious role as a sadistic bookmaker, harrassing Hannah's debt-ridden gambler. Not a poker man himself, Hannah had to learn the dirtiest tricks of the pack from a hired magician. You'll be able to see the Scotsman's hand next spring, when Circus comes to town.

 

Fears for a clown
(www.lineone.net | Daily Express)


FILM: He's a great comedian, but Eddie Izzard's latest foray into the movies, in Circus, doesn't do him justice, says Edward Docx

Eddie Izzard grew up in Eastbourne and is, as he says, "quite at home with the shabby Edwardian splendour of the south coast." He does not, however, seem quite so at ease playing Tony Cabrara, the gangster in the new Brit-Grit movie, Circus, set in Brighton and released this week.

"Actually I wanted the lead part," Izzard says, referring to the character of Leo Garfield (played by John Hannah). "I saw the script and loved it. But then I was offered the role of this hoodlum and I thought - OK, I can do this."

Thus far the critics have all slated the film. And, undeniably, Circus as a whole is somehow considerably weaker than the sum of its many well-intentioned parts. In particular (it has to be said), Izzard himself is far from convincing: his portrayal of "a real professional who would buy you a friendly drink in the evening and then call at your house in the middle of the night and cut your ear off because you owed him money and tell you that he was sorry but that business is business" is neither sufficiently comic nor sufficiently menacing but falls instead between two stools.

When I speak to Eddie Izzard he is in Melbourne, Australia, a couple of shows into the Antipodean leg of his stand-up tour. As he is (in my view) by far the best comic of his generation, I ask him why he is continually distracting himself with trying to be an actor.

"As soon as I had finished playing Lenny Bruce," he says, referring to his recent and successful West End portrayal of the great American stand-up genius, "the Circus script came up which was, I thought, very

fortuitous. I saw Lenny as a cross-over role - a chance to do something on the stage which was appropriate but serious and demanding but which would also help people begin to think about me in a new light. Then there was this gangster character and, you know, it was different..." Essentially, Izzard has always wanted to be an actor. Indeed, it is rumoured that one of the reasons why he so studiously shunned television for so long was that he was worried that his small screen appearances would prevent him being taken seriously by the big screen casting chiefs.

Meanwhile, the Australian shows have been going well, although I cannot help but wonder how his very English and idiosyncratic sense of humour goes down in the land of Crocodile Dundee. "There's really not all that much difference between audiences because my material is deliberately nonspecific. I'm not going to introduce a load of wallaby and kangaroo gags just because I'm in Australia.

It doesn't work like that. It's a series of monologues and sketches which are as near as they can be to universal. In any case, my audience tend to be - broadly speaking - an 'alternative' crowd who know a little of what I do, if only by word of mouth, so they don't come in expecting it to be a series of topical one-liners." Fair enough. But how much of his material is occasioned by where he is?

How much is changed on the night, ad-libbed?

"Still only about 10 to 15 per cent," he says, "depending on how I am feeling. But really it is more likely to be stuff about elephant ski-schools than satirical exegesis on the Commonwealth. The same in the States. Which is not to say that the show isn't always evolving. You get new ideas in each place and the audience doesn't always react in the same way. " It's very hard to characterise Izzard's humour. He doesn't accept any of the labels that I try - scatological, absurdist, subversive, satirical - although it is all of these. Instead he likens himself to "a non-stop human search-engine surfing all available channels all the time." And his modesty isn't all false. "I explore as many disparate ideas as I can," he says, "from the human condition to complete c**p and all the way back again. It's just me really. Me and what comes into my head."

The principal pillars of his public persona are all still in place. First of all, he still likes to cross dress - "I am a male lesbian". Second, he remains fervently pro-Blair, pro-European: "National characteristics are really not as strong as people think. As a comic, going round the world, you find people laughing at the same things wherever you are." (Izzard, famously, gloriously, got away with doing his show in French in Paris and to widespread acclaim.) And third, he is still very private about his private life: "Yes I am still with my girlfriend, thank you."

Probably his greatest concern (at 38) is to take enough time out to develop a whole new show that is significantly different to the ones that have gone before. "There is a Woody Allen trap which you have to beware of," he says. "It's all very good but really you wonder, have we been here before?" Hopefully, as far as Brit-Grit movies go, he will never go there again.

The writer of "Circus", David Logan, has such an ability to create convolutions that some day he may give us a great gangster picture. This is not it. His screenplay features too many twists and turns, from too many unexpected angles, for too damn long, and after a while we just groan at every new 'surprise'. It's suspenseful in a story when anything can happen. It's kind of ridiculous when everything does.

"Circus" is a British movie starring John Hannah as a hit man who is asked by an old crime-boss friend (Brian Conley) to run his Brighton casino. Before Hannah can take him up on the offer, though, he must take care of one piece of unfinished business -- the assassination of a rich man's wife (Amanda Donohoe).

We see the killing carried out. Then it transpires there is much more to the story. At first we think Hannah's client is entrapping him, but there's actually a whole pageant of double-crossing, blackmailing, double-dealing and scamming going on behind the scenes. It's far too complicated to go into here. When my companion leaned over and said "I've lost the plot!", it wasn't a confession of madness.

Actually, it's simple in one sense -- everyone's screwing over everyone else. That lets Logan turn out twist after twist, but we soon realize what he's doing, and so none of his tricks have the ability to shock us. The plot has low credibility anyway, because most of the characters' secret schemes are dependent on coincidence, guesswork and chance.

A movie like this needs more than complicated puzzles to keep us involved. It requires characters who inspire our fascination. Just look at the colorful ensemble in "The Usual Suspects". The people in "Circus" are distinctive, all right -- they include a gigantic bodyguard who drives a Mini; a fidgety, screw-loose accountant with eccentric dress sense; a debt collector who sings all his conversations in the rhythm of old pop songs; and a bank robber who dresses in cowboy clothing and experiences coitus interruptus with a hotel receptionist who'll "suck you off for twenty quid". But this troupe belongs in a comedy sketch show, not a thriller that expects to hold our attention. And Hannah, such a soft-spoken everyman, is far too bland for the lead role.

What can I say? At least the film tries hard, is sincere, and has ambition. It's better than the ads make it out to be, and if you really can't fight the urge to see a gangster film in the cinema this season, "Circus" is a much better bet than "Love, Honour and Obey".

**1/2

(Rated on a 4-star scale)

By Ian Waldron-Mantgani (http://www.ukcritic.com/)

Click here for the Daily Express article & interview

Circus
Irish Times - Hugh Linehan

It does no favours to director Rob Walker, but it's impossible to avoid comparing Jarmusch's intelligently comic crime thriller with Walker's shallow, silly, deeply unimaginative foray into similar territory. British cinema seems to be obsessed at the moment with trying to replicate whatever surprise hit has most recently spurred that weary battle-cry of another "British film renaissance". Having had to endure two years of pale Full Monty imitations, it seems we're now fated to be swamped by Johnny-come-latelies jumping on the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels bandwagon.

Like the execrable Love, Honour and Obey, Circus is based on the simple notion that English gangsters are inherently funny, so there's not much need to write a decent plot around them. How wrong can you get? These characters, cardboard cut-outs to a man (and occasional woman), need all the help they can get. Unfortunately what they do get is a deeply implausible plot which the film's writers probably thought was devilishly cunning, but which lacks even one real surprise.

Along the way, John Hannah, as the supposedly suave conman hero, makes Pierce Brosnan look like a method actor. Famke Janssen, as Hannah's wife, is there for strictly decorative purposes, while a host of familiar Brit TV faces mouth their not-very-funny lines without much conviction (Eddie Izzard, in particular, should really have a word with his agent about all these third-baddie-from-the-left roles he's getting). Shot in photogenic Brighton with all the pzazz and depth of a car advertisement, this is a cynical, depressing little film.

 

This is London.com

written by Eddie Izzard for thisislondon.com

I've always been a huge film nut, and now I'm crowbarring my way into movies. I'm not there yet but I'll keep relentlessly banging on until I am. Stand-up is pretty arduous - there's a lot of travelling involved - and I've found I do less of it the more I get into films.

When I'm on screen I try and be as interesting as possible, so that someone might say, "You did quite well in that small role, we'll give you nine lines in this next film." It's all about the number of lines you have.

This new film, Circus, is like Pulp Fiction crossed with The Long Good Friday. I used to say it was Pulp Fiction crossed with Zulu, but that wasn't true. It's a great script by Dave Logan. I play a character called Troy who is pursuing a conman played by John Hannah for some money he's owed. Originally I wanted John Hannah's part, but John had that, so Troy seemed stupid enough, and psychotic enough, for me to do.

I'm going through the psychotic-villain phase in my career. You know that British thing, about going to Hollywood and playing a villain? I like that, because they're fun roles. And also it's easier to come in on the wave of playing either a butler or a villain. I'm drawn to the villainous side, because there are real parallels with comedy.

When you go on stage, it's a bit of a lion's den, particularly if someone gets up and heckles you. That's the verbal equivalent of a duel - if they shout at you, you shout back and destroy them. You have to save face. I think there's a real link between the psychotic nature of comedy, those extreme twists you make in comedy, and some of these psychotic characters that I'm being asked to play.

 

This is London.com
(thanks Mimi)

by Alexander Walker
This thuggish mess, along with recent piles of excrement like Love, Honour and Obey, makes it seem as if a sizeable section of British Equity has now capitulated to East End gangsterdom. Or is lust for the box office earned by immeasurably better films like Get Carter or The Long Good Friday (the latter re-released this week) too hard to resist? Certainly too hard to improve on.

John Hannah stars as a South Coast gambler in hock to a rather nasty psychopath (Eddie Izzard) who chews people's ears off and sails toy boats. To pay his debt and preserve his attributes, he accepts a little contract job on the side, strangles what he thinks is his client's wife, then discovers she was the girlfriend of a crazy black Goliath named Moose. That makes following the plot sound simple. It's anything but.

Director Rob Walker's farrago of brutality is not only post-Tarantino imitative, but almost totally impenetrable. Every other scene in David Logan's derivative script goes for some "smart" twist - like the hoodlums meeting on a nudist beach. (The sight of Izzard with his kit off is the one true fright in the film.) Its designer violence is a rip-off of movies - and novels like The Big Sleep - that had (sometimes) better motives than simply pandering to pornographic shock values that very quickly become numbingly repetitious. It's set in the resort that Graham Greene made famous in print, and the Boulting Brothers on film, as Brighton Rock. The kindest name for this update is Brighton Schlock.


HEAT MAGAZINE
May 4-12, 2000 UK
(thanks Mimi)

The plot

The makers of this British thriller imaging it’s the Usual Suspects come to Brighton. In their dreams. The labyrinthine plot involves hitman Hannah, his scheming wife Janssen, nerdy mobster accountant Stormare and camp, nasty bookie Eddie Izzard.

What’s right with it?

If you’ve had your fill of intricately plotted American indie thriller featuring eccentric characters, black humour and slapstick violence, you might find it refreshing that this one injects some British seaside charm into the formula.

What’s wrong with it?

The occasionally successful stabs at comedy undermine your investment in the endless machinations of the plot. And the numerous twists, though diverting, end up not making sense.

 Length

A modest 96 minutes.

 Verdict

Wait for the video. (2 OUT OF 4 STARS)

 

NME.COM (new music express)
Review by Steven Wells

Uh, yeah, OK, the 'plot' bit.- Heck! This film has more twists than a bunch of epileptic snakes attending a Chubby Checker revival party in a pretzel factory. Where- do you start?

OK, there's this Scots conman (Hannah) living in Brighton who decides to do a bit of assassination on the side. But the bloke who hires him to off his missus decides to blackmail him - because it wasn't his wife! No, it was the prostitute girlfriend of this humungous enforcer who works for the baddie (Conley). Except that it turns out that the fake husband is actually the accountant for the baddie. And he's in cahoots with the Scots conman. Or his girlfriend (Janssen). Or both. Or neither.

Actually, everything I've just told you isn't true. I think. I'm still a bit confused. And then there's Eddie Izzard as an utterly convincing psycho bookmaker who keeps trying to cut Hannah's nads off and the baddie's got an over-ambitious brother who's pulling the strings in the background. Or maybe he isn't.

If you like twists, you'll love Circus. And, for once, we get a Brit gangsta movie which, unlike Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and the execrable Love, Honour & Obey, doesn't get all misty-eyed abart the scum-filth Cockernee vermin bastards. A good brain-buster with an ever-so-slightly dodgy ending. I think. 6/10

 

BBC MOVIE ONLINE
Review by Michael Thomson

Opening Date: 5th May
Running Time: 95 mins

If a bunch of smart, spotty schoolboys, who by definition had yet to learn about Real Life, had devised Circus during their mid-morning break, you'd at least applaud them for their imagination. As it is, Circus has been thought up (not that thinking seems to be their chief concern) by writer David Logan and director Rob Walker who, as far as we know, have indeed left school.

So keen are they to tap into the hipness, stylishness, edgy comedy and unnerving violence of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that they have apparently forgotten that Circus is meant to be set in the real world. The world, in fact, is Brighton, Logan's home town, where Leo (John Hannah) is an egotistical con-man, Lily (Famke Janssen) is his ice-cold wife, Troy (Eddie Izzard) is a sadistic bookie and Bruno (Brian Conley) is the grinning, thuggish gang boss who lords it over all.

Characters who start double-crossing each other end up triple- and quadruple-crossing everyone else to the point of maximum confusion, which is where the audience comes in. Why is he/she doing that to him/her? Gosh - where did he spring from?

You can almost hear Logan/Walker thinking 'Wow, this would be fun, let's try it', without any regard for the coherence or common sense of the whole piece. Brian Conley can be taken as a metaphor for the entire film: he first appears as the cruel torturer of his accountant (Christopher Biggins) - a serious, nasty, tense moment - before quickly spiralling off into absurdity as he becomes a cockney caricature. A smattering of jolly moments and the very handsome gloss can't shore up this shaky, and slackly directed, enterprise.

 

BBC RADIO1 NEWS

Eddie Izzard's new film ‘Circus’ had its premiere on Tuesday night in Shaftesbury Avenue in London. It's a gangster flick set in Brighton, which claims to be a ‘violent, darkly humorous tale that twists like an epileptic boa constrictor riding a helter skelter.’ Basically, a conman, played by John Hannah, is hired to murder a businessman's wife. Eddie Izzard plays Troy, a singing psychopath. But don't be put off, because he co-stars with Brian Conley and Christopher Biggins. Eddie thinks it’s all a bit confusing: "It does seem to be an interesting amalgamation of all the gangster films I’ve seen. And an immense amount of lying going on. It's just up to here with lies by the end. Audiences will walk out and lie their heads off for the rest of the evening."

Eddie says ‘Circus’ is "‘The Long Good Friday’ crossed with ‘Brighton Rock.’ That’s my thing. Or ‘Gone With The Wind’ crossed with ‘Zulu’. But I don’t think that one really gives the signals that we’re trying to go for. Anything crossed with ‘Zulu’, actually. In America they say ‘meets’ so this would be ‘Brighton Rock’ meets ‘Zulu’ but with less people in loin cloths."

review by Robin Askew
Popcorn.com

And the winner of the award for this week's really poor, post-'Lock, Stock' wannabe hip Brit crime thriller is... 'Circus'!

Down in glamorous, er, Brighton, smalltime con artist and gambler Leo Garfield (John Hannah) is stitched up during a contract killing. Meanwhile, his scheming American wife Lily (Famke Janssen) is about to find her past catching up with her in the threatening form of Elmo (Fred Ward).

These aren't the only problems the couple face. A loan shark called Troy (Eddie Izzard) is demanding immediate repayment of Leo's gambling debts. And low-watt local crime boss Bruno (Brian Conley) is also up to no good, while his geeky new accountant Julius (Peter Stormare) is undergoing something of a dramatic makeover. What's going on, who's stitching up whom, and, quite frankly, who cares?

Somewhere in the needlessly labyrinthine plotting, you find you simply can't be bothered with all this any more. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Messrs Hannah, Conley and Izzard are three of the least menacing gangsters ever thrown together on the big screen.

The gap between romantic comedy and crime thriller is too wide for Hannah to cross convincingly, and even behind shades and stubble Izzard is still the familiar chubby cross-dresser.

It doesn't help that scriptwriter David Logan's approach to characterisation is to give each of them a pointless tic: Izzard sings pop songs while beating people, Hannah tosses coins to decide on his next move - like an English seaside Diceman - and so on.

To cap it all, there's even a stultifyingly unexciting chase through the streets of Brighton, which only serves to remind you that the last thriller to be set here was, oh dear, Michael Winner's 'Dirty Weekend'.

 

EMMA COCHRANE
Empire Magazine
Issue 132 June 2000

Another Brit-set gangster comedy bites the dust.

Circus opens with a scene of loveable variety entertainer Brian Conley torturing loveable variety entertainer Christopher Biggins. Only Conley is in fact kingpin Brighton crime boss Bruno Maitland and snivelling Biggins is his no good accountant. Find that funny or convincing, then Circus is your sort of film. Find it crass and embarrassing, well then you're in for a long hour and a half of viewing time.

How you feel about those first few minutes will colour your attitude towards the whole film. This is a movie, after all, that features various comics in several key roles. Apart from Biggins and Conley (to be fair, convincingly vicious), there's Izzard's Shylock figure (to be fair, not convincingly vicious) with Game On's Neil Stuke playing his sidekick. But before the whole thing gets overladen with British comics turned actors, rising stars Hannah (about to pick up his first 1 million pay cheque for The Mummy 2) and Janssen (about to go stratospheric in this summer's sci-fi comicbook actioner X-Men) turn up as the leads.

Therein lies another problem. The chemistry between the pair is supposed to be scorching, so much so that the audience has to believe they will do anything for each other. Not only is that lacking, it's hard to imagine that the two would spend time talking to each other, let alone plotting the biggest scam of all time.

Those assumptions aside, Circus' other selling point seems to be its multiple twist-packed plot. However, the effectiveness of this depends on how many similar films you've seen. Go in blind and it could just win you over. Screenwriter David Logan has used his home town of Brighton in East Sussex as an effective setting and given that this script sparked a bidding war in the US, it might just be that the big screen realisation of the film has sold him short. Or maybe it's just a matter of a taste.

Roll up, roll up... the British gangster-flick is back in town
David Logan and Quentin Tarantino may share video-shop roots. But Circus is no Pulp Fiction?


The Independent

It's been a good year for David Logan. Sitting in the lounge of his spacious top-floor flat in a prestigious crescent in Hove, with a TV the size of a car, and enough DVDs to open a small shop, it's easy to detect an air of success.

Since he gave one of his video-shop customers a copy of his screenplay, Circus, to read in 1996, Logan has been suffering the ignominy of the Hollywood dream (including a nightmare shoot and the breakdown of his friendship with director Rob Walker). Not that he really minds. He now commands six-figure sums, has future projects set up with John Woo (Face/Off) and Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls), and because of his humble video-shop roots and gangster storylines, is being touted as the new Tarantino. Just like one of his scripts, he underpins the obviousness of the comparison by saying: "Tarantino's just the old Dave Logan," adding wryly, "No-one's ever found that very funny."

It becomes clear that Logan loathes obviousness. "I'm sick of political correctness. Women, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals will always get a raw deal in my movies." When I first met him a few years ago, this quiet, unassuming 31-year-old didn't strike me as a misogynist homophobic racist, and in fact he isn't, and never could be.

Anyone that admits they love strong women(and confesses they didn't have the guts to speak to Julianne Moore at a recent party), who is half-Pakistani, and happy to live in very gay Brighton, hasn't a hope of making such anti-PC attitudes convincing. You sense it's just Logan giving Hollywood what it wants to hear.

On the surface, Circus is a British spin on the tongue-in-cheek, "Oops, I accidentally shot his head off" gangster film, with the added ingredients of pastiche from movies like Get Carter and The Italian Job. Logan describes hero Leo, played by John Hannah, as "me – well, the person I'd like to be", who is, interestingly, a gambler, a bit of a smoothie, and who was originally, he says, based on Kirk Douglas's character in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. "Douglas played a real shit. A very fanciable shit."

Leo's love interest is his wife, Lily, played by Famke Jansen. Despite being married, their relationship is, refreshingly, full of passion and intrigue. "I like the idea of a husband and wife that are still in love. I hate coincidence in films. I hate couples that get together after 10 minutes and are doing it on the kitchen table before they've worked out who the other person is."

Ironically, a stream of coincidences are what helped David Logan get his breakthrough with Sony Pictures. Choosing to work in his local video shop to support his screenwriting aspirations was, he says, the best thing he could have done. "I chatted to customers about my writing. One of the regulars turned out to be the director, John Hay. I gave him a dodgy thriller to read, about a kidnapper in Ireland and a serial killer in New Orleans, hoping he might like it. He came back, criticised it to the hilt, in the politest way possible, and became a bit of a mentor."

After collaborating on a script with a friend,Logan set about doing his own screenplay. Six months and two drafts later, he presented Hay with Circus. This time, there were no reservations, and Logan found himself an agent in London, who fixed him up with Sony Pictures.

Interestingly, the film I saw is not the screenplay I hear Logan describing. His is a script full of subtlety, whereas Circus on celluloid is a more heavy-handed affair, with, uncharacteristically for Logan, a happy ending, which, he tells me quickly, was a "studio choice". Whether it will match the success of recent Brit gangster flicks like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, remains to be seen.

CHEEKY MONKEY (fom the Sun, thanks Mimi)

HERE'S transvestite funnyman Eddie Izzard as you thought you'd never see him ... looking well 'ard.

Eddie plays a tough gangster in new movie Circus. His character Troy spends most of the film pursuing Sliding Doors star John Hannah, a conman who owes him money.

But Troy is no ordinary gangster - he sings and even strips.

A film insider said: "Troy quotes lines from songs as he's knifing people. Eddie comes across as very menacing."

NEWS & RUMORS:

(08.01.00) According to Upcomingmovies.com, Circus won't be released in 2000 as expected but maybe in 2001.

(04.20.00 | thanks Sue) There's an interview in "Woman" magazine (UK mag) with John Hannah...Eddie's co-star in "Circus"...and it said that the release date for the UK is May 5th. No word on US release...

(04.17.00) From the John Hannah Appreciation Site: According to Empire Magazine, it's due out in the UK in summer or autumn of 2000.    Still no news on the US release date.

(February 23, 2000...thanks Mimi) from EMPIRE magazine (UK edition - March 2000).

CIRCUS

Starring Famke Janssen
John Hannah
Amanda Donahoe
Peter Stormare
Eddie Izzard

Director Rob Walker



ETA (Britain) Summer/Autumn

The directorial debut of British helmer Walker, Circus is a home-grown thriller with a continental cast although it's the Scottish Hannah that leads proceedings. He stars as Leo Garfield, a petty criminal who, together with wife Janssen, cooks up a potentially money spinning scam, although inevitably the road to pots of cash and untold wealth is
fraught with twists, turns and all manner of dangerous situations. With co-stars Donohoe, Izzard and Fargo star Stormare popping up to further complicate matters, it's yet another addition to the ever-swelling canon of stylish British thrillers, although this one already comes with an endorsement from its star; Hannah has revealed that Leo Garfield is one of the best characters he has played.

(February 13, 2000)  Upcoming Movies.com has "Circus" listed but unfortunately, they have no news about any release dates.

(April 29, 1999)  Famke Janssen ("The Faculty," "GoldenEye") will star opposite John Hannah in Columbia Pictures' "Circus" for director Rob Walker. Eddie Izzard, Peter Stormare and Tiny Lister are also set for roles in the action thriller, which is a working title for the film. The project began shooting this week at Shepperton Studios and on location in Brighton, England. Written by David Logan, "Circus" centers on con man Leo Garfield (Hannah) and his glamorous wife Lily (Janssen), who have masterminded an audacious scam, according to THR.

 


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