dir Rob Walker scr David Logan
with John Hannah, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Brian Conley, Eddie Izzard, Tiny Lister, Amanda Donohoe, Fred Ward, Ian Brofield
Columbia 00/UK 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
One of those twisty thrillers that's so full of double and triple crosses that it hardly makes any sense, Circus is at least assured and entertaining. It's also a very slickly produced British crime comedy that's mercifully not set in London's East End!

We're instead at the seaside in Brighton, where con man Leo (Hannah) lives with his gorgeous American wife Lily (Janssen) in a trendy loft-with-a-view. They've decided to do "one last job" (famous last words) before running off to Cuba, escaping from the local crime boss Bruno (Conley), who wants Leo to run his casino, which angers Bruno's brother (Brofield), who wants the job himself. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, and soon Leo is in trouble with everyone from a singing loanshark (Izzard) to Lily's betrayed ex (Ward), a hulking thug (Lister) with a heart of gold, and two people who are never who we think they are (Storemare and Donohoe).

The plot turns come so fast and furious (virtually every scene has a surprise in it) that all logic and coherence quickly go out the window. We stop caring who's double-crossing whom; the film's good-natured tone assures us it will all be OK in the end. In fact, all that keeps us interested are the quirks that fill every frame--character traits that keep us giggling even amid the violence and mayhem (Izzard is the high point, by far). Even if it never adds up to much, it's great to see British filmmakers with this degree of confidence. This isn't a Shallow Grave or Lock Stock clone, it's more like an unhinged Steven Soderbergh/Elmore Leonard caper with about 20 twists too many. Lively, edgy, funny ... and an utterly beguiling shambles.

[18--adult themes and situations, language, violence, nudity] 10.Mar.00
UK release 5.May.00; US release 15.Sep.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall