Elias Savada, 16 April 2004
Being an online film critic means
receiving a regular slew of local press screening notices and an
occasional email from someone with a small film who wants feedback.
That's what I'm here for, of course. You get the good, the bad, or
the ugly in about 800 words about 50 times a year from yours truly.
In mid February I got that irregular email from Donald Whittier, a
good ole boy raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A successful
local entrepreneur, real estate developer, and Tae Kwon Do expert,
he grew up making Super8 home movies. He's now graduating to the
"big time" with Fight Circle (fightcircle.com),
billed as "America's first feature-length martial arts film." You
can't watch it in the theatres, on cable television, or on dvd from
your local blockbuster. It's only on your computer, and you better
have a broadband connection to boot. To build word of mouth, Don's
pounding the world wide web and offering critics a free pass. For
the rest of you, it's seven bucks for a 9-chapter, 89-minute, 750+
megabyte streaming video excursion. One recent weekend, the website
was offering it at 50% off. Bargain matinee. It's been available for
your viewing since 2:04 pm on February 4th, for those of you taking
notes. People are interested, at least, over 70,000 visitors having
watched the film's trailer within the first few weeks of the
ultra-low budget, larger intentioned project's availability ("FC
has its own score" Whittier proudly exclaimed in a recent instant
message), most of those viewers brought in by web advertising,
banner ads, and geek website Fark.com.
the film, like with most circles it's pointless. Granted, I've seen
worse on budgets way above those that Mr. Whittier has pieced his
picture together. In Fight Circle there are a series of
fights using sticks, fists, hands, feet, swords, etc., out in the
lush, green woods where everyone runs around barefooted and lives in
tents and other assorted structures. The first brief battle finds
the boastful Gabby (Jim Coyne), one of the sparsely-clothed warriors
that troll the forest, defeating the mighty Undan and returning with
the spoils -- a necklace snatched from the great one's neck.
Meanwhile Nemo (Ad Santell, a.k.a. the film's director of
photography) and his impatient, yet feisty female cousin Paky have
small talk about this fight circle thingee (she wants in, maybe --
her dad was a member. Or maybe she saw Uma Thurman in Kill Bill
and wants a piece of that action.). Physically, it's a small round
"c (as in male chauvinist)-shaped" clearing with scrawny tree
saplings and flat stones dotting its circumference. The
metaphysical circle, however, has apparently fallen on spiritual
hard times (everyone's opting for the country club just outside the
forest, perhaps), but one Zen-like character warns that "the fight
circle only kills young men and creates monsters."
now you think there might be some neato special effects. Maybe
something nasty out in the medieval woodshed? Well, the only thing
wooden is the acting, and some of that is real nasty. There's a
hooded guy who frees Nemo (or is it Mullag?) and Paky. When did they
get tied up anyway, and why? Seems everyone roaming the woods has an
axe to grind.
rumble percussion and occasional bagpipe soundtrack/score (by Robert
Hunt) bombards the numerous fisticuffs, grunts, and groans that
erupt every few minutes. "The circle is not about killing," one of
the contestants remarks.
what," I answered back. (Seems I can do that when it's an audience
of one.) Let Paky get the Gordon Liu treatment from the older guy
who rescued her and her cousin, who is page to the real Undan
(Runyon Woods), who's not dead at all, just retired to a job
coaching from the muddy sidelines.
bad guys, there's Kas (Kas DeCarvalho), a well toned specimen in
leather skirt with a marine's physique and a clean-shaven head. He
snaps necks as if they're about to go out of season. In the full
circle game he's not playing fair.
(Thomas Shanks) and Paky (Anna Henke) train on their own agenda,
with the young lad boasting that he's cooked 10,000 more meals than
she ever has, and she's told to put all the stones back in the
river. Huh? What kind of lessons are we learning? Great parables are
had to come by, even if easily accessible on the internet.
lame story line about Mullag pining away amongst the pine trees for
Paky, wounded in one of those forest encounters and then running off
to heal, or get revenge, but instead finds the handsome Trebor (Sam
Hargrave), a master like Undan. Paky, it seems, had stolen Undan's
revered chronicle, but it takes Trebor over a year to berate her for
the theft, but she does learn the warrior's way in the meanwhile.
It's all rather silly. There's talk about levels. Fighting levels.
Paky, starting in the amateur league, obviously dreams of a Friday
Night Fight at Madison Square Garden.
with the budget, the screenwriting could have used a heavy dose of
rewrite. Micro funded doesn't mean it has to be low caliber. On the
plus side, the digital production looks and sounds fine, even those
handful of by-the-campfire night shots. Chapter Seven's face off
against Trebor and Kas is nicely choreographed and provides the only
startling plot twist in the film. Unfortunately, nothing comes of
of the forest dampness, Full Circle might be considered moss
see entertainment. (That's the late night humor setting in.) As for
the characters that tread about it's arbor field, they're mostly
forgettable. For producer-director-writer Donald Whittier, no doubt
Full Circle was a nice learning experience, but that doesn't
mean everyone on the internet need sit in on this class project.
NR - Not Rated.
This film has not