The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Circuit 3: The Street Monk (2006)

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I was trying to think back to the archives to see if there was another film like Circuit 3: Street Monk, where I reviewed it despite the fact it wasn't available on the retail market here in the States. Dolph's Retrograde comes to mind, but that was rectified last year, and now you can even get that on Watch Instantly on Netflix.

Circuit 3: Street Monk picks up where Dirk Longstreet (DTVC Hall of Famer Olivier Gruner if you didn't know) left off in part 2. It seems like his girlfriend didn't survive that coma she was put in by that film's baddie, and Dirk has given up, living a nomadic lifestyle completely off the grid out of his van, searching for the next great wave to ride. He supplements this lifestyle through illegal underground fighting, which we see at the beginning. Anyway, while surfing, a young girl who was sold by her step-dad to white slavers escapes to the beach, Gruner saves her, and a bond forms. When she's captured, Gruner must fight again to save her. Of course, what he doesn't know is his wife is actually alive, but his off-the-grid life means no one can tell him.

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Maybe there's a reason why certain films aren't released here. This was made on what looked like a shoestring budget, and I can't imagine after that that there was much left to pay for distribution. Beyond Gruner, all you had was Jalal Mehri, who also wrote, directed, and produced, so I imagine he was cheap, and then the main baddie was Jason Carter, who's a Brit you might remember from Babylon 5 or 90210. The best they could do for a fighter for Gruner at the end was James Lew, a major That Guy who is seldom in any film for more than a few scenes and seldom for anything more than a member of Cary Tagawa's. I had trouble accepting this was made in 2006, because the film quality, dialog, and clothing, looked more like 1999.

And with that lack of talent, the action suffered. Gruner had a few moments, but he could only work with the scraps he was given. The first two were just more complete films. I have to feel like maybe Gruner and Mehri would prefer I didn't get my hands on this, because I'm sure they'd rather no one knew about it. If you go to imdb, Gruner's not even top billed. That being said, this could've been a little better. A lot of the ideas were just dipped in wrong sauce. Gruner fighting with a surf board may sound cool in the meeting room, but on screen it looks silly, and someone needed to fix that, ie cut it out. In another scene, Gruner is stomped by some surfers after the baddie's goons pay them. In response, Gruner runs out to the water where they're surfing, swims underneath them, and grabs them one at a time and brings them below the surface. Who knows what it accomplished, and who knows why the baddies paid the surfers to stomp him, because they didn't do anything after either. The movie was more moments like that than good ones.

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Gruner's current imdb photo is for this film One Night, which is in post-production, and which marks Gruner's directorial debut. Of the five films between that and 2006's Crooked, only one, Brother's War, was available over here, including Circuit 3. That's not a good ratio. We know the Albert Pyun directed Tales of an Ancient Empire will be released here, but still... I guess in one case, Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter, a promising film with a solid cast, the film went bankrupt and is now in limbo, probably never to see the light of day. How does that happen? The film lists, in addition to Gruner, Tagawa, Gary Busey, Eric Roberts, Martin Kove, and Bolo Yeung. You'd think a distributor like MGM would scoop that and make money on those names alone. Anyway, in Circuit 3, Gruner was pretty hilarious. He looked like teen poser rocking his Quicksilver beach visor. Again, someone should've stepped in and stopped that.

One reason why Circuit 3 wasn't released might have to do with the casting of James Lew in a major part. I don't know this for a fact, but it seems that using a That Guy like that might interfere with the time/space continuum. If too many people knew that James Lew was more than just That Guy from that movie where he played a guy in a gang, the consequences could be catastrophic, and perhaps... nah, that's crazy... okay, I was just thinking, it might mean Massachusetts might elect a tea bagger backed Republican into Ted Kennedy's senate seat, but that would never happen, would it...?

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In one scene, Gruner and the girl break into a hotel to hide out from the baddies. To make up for a lack of blankets, Gruner uses a bathrobe. I only bring this up, because back when I was like 19 or 20, me and some buddies were drinking at one of their places while his folks were out of town. I was pretty plastered, and curled up on a recliner to call it a night. Draped over the top of it was what I thought was a throw blanket, which I covered myself in. Anyway, my buddy's sister comes home and says "um... do you need a blanket?" and I was like "Oh, no, this is fine." I had no idea why she gave me a funny look, until the next morning, when I found out I was sleeping in what looked to be their mom's bathrobe. I'd forgotten all about that until that scene.

So you can't get this over here, and that might be a good thing, I don't know. The cover picture I have up there is from an Australian set of all three movies on DVD. I don't know if that will make it's way over here, and I don't really care. Unlike Retrograde, where I'm glad it was finally released, I could do without seeing this one again.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0498335/

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