The Circuit 2: The Final Punch (2002)

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I feel confident that not a single person reading this review will be doing so to judge whether or not to see the movie. It’s almost impossible to get hold of – not available on DVD in the UK, quite expensive on DVD in the US, and not available to stream online (as far as I can tell). I had to resort to a torrent, which froze at 75% complete; this will lead to some oddities in the review, as several scenes were viewed in oddly glitching sections – something would start, then the screen would go all weird colours for a second, then it would jump ahead a random amount (usually a few seconds, but often 30 or more). Combined with the less-than-stellar editing of ISCFC non-favourite Jalal Merhi, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a confusing movie.

 

Luckily, the plot is so simple that I could have watched this entire mess on fast-forward and still got the everything. The first “Circuit” movie was a ton of fun, with action B-movie superstars kicking ass in a story of an underground fight league, avenging a brother, all that good stuff. The sequel is, to be polite, more of the same! The fight league this time is inside a prison, and this fact, along with the initial fight we see, poses a heck of a lot of questions. The only audience is other inmates, so no-one’s making money out of it, and fights are often fatal, meaning there’s a lot of “people getting killed trying to escape” stories in the press. This seems like a poor business model! It turns out there’s inter-prison tournaments at night on deserted beaches, with wealthy invited guests, but there really doesn’t seem like enough of them to make it worth anyone’s while. But, picking logic holes in a Jalal Merhi film I’ve only seen 75% of is a fool’s errand, so let’s continue.

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Star of the first movie Olivier Gruner is back as Dirk Longstreet, undefeated Circuit champion turned college athletics tutor; he’s joined by his English reporter girlfriend Nicole, and she’s the person who reveals the details of the prison fight league. Ol’ Dirk saves one of his students from committing suicide – not sure why, glitch; then, attempting suicide is apparently enough to get you sent to prison, so the poor kid gets locked up. During a visit, Dirk finds out about the league, and Nicole gets kidnapped, so…you know what’s going to happen…he gets himself inside the prison! It’s basically done by inventing a transfer from another nearby jail and sneaking him onto a bus, with the only problem being he’s sort of famous in underground fighting circles. When the Governor phones the other Governor and says “why did you transfer such a badass fighter?”, the gig is up immediately.

 

This perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise when you know Jalal Merhi dreamed up the plan, via his screenwriter Glen Doyle (whose 4 writing credits are all Merhi movies) – he’s also back to act as the editor of the newspaper, and they’re accompanied by pony-tailed legend Lorenzo Lamas as…not sure? A friend of the gang, I guess. I’ve just read a few other reviews and it seems no-one has any idea why he’s involved in this movie, so I’m happy to relay that information to you. What is important is the lovely little pug puppy that Longstreet and Nicole have does not die. Okay, both its owners are away for a very long time, but a friendly neighbour hopefully took it in.

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There’s just lots and lots of fighting. I know, not much of a surprise, but even in the “lots of fighting” genre, this one has more than average. Aside from Dirk and his MMA  style, everyone else sort of blends into a mass of samey punch-kickery. If you were expecting a bit of exploitation movie prison plotting, you’d be shit out of luck, it’s just the most convenient way to get all the people needed together with no way out.

 

I don’t like saying this about people, but I’m confident I’m a great deal smarter than Jalal Merhi. He’s in the business he’s in because he has money, pure and simple, and watching this is proof of that. There’s no tension built about Dirk fitting in, in prison – he’s just there and immediately fighting. The Governor finds out he’s not on the level but seemingly does nothing. We never find out if Nicole is okay or not, or why on earth the Governor let her go without killing her. The plans invented by the cast feel like the result of some kids inventing a game on their own. I know I’ve pointed out holes bigger than this in other movies, but the sense I got here is that Merhi genuinely thought he was being clever with all the plotting.

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Still, it’s entertaining, after a fashion. Gruner is an intense leading man, and a really good fighter; Lamas seems aware of how silly all this; I liked the beach location at the end; and, that’s about it. Perhaps of interest if you’re a Jalal Merhi completist, or just really like underground fight league movies (of which there are a surprisingly large amount), but otherwise avoid.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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