Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Where in the hell is Hector Echavarria when you need him? We’ve seen a few of these ‘Tapout’ branded movies, a series of flicks that have been roaring down the pipe at a fast and furious clip, with the first series of these flick all starring Hector Echavarria with Echavarria even directing a couple of them. For the most part those movies weren’t all that good but ‘Unrivaled’ did contain some high entertainment value for the locals over here at FCUville. Now we have the latest Tapout feature ‘Circle of Pain’ and Hector Echavarria is nowhere to be found. His penchant for blatant displays of gratuitous nudity and graphic simulated sex was left behind, but no Hector. I didn’t think it was possible but I miss you Hector. Come back Hector.

Say hello to Colin ‘The Brick’ Wahle (Heath Herring), the baddest dude in this mythical MMA world that we are going to spend some quality time in. We’ve just observed this overgrown monster of a man completely eviscerate some poor schlub as he inches closer and closer to the undefeated record of former RFA star Dalton Hunt (Tony Schiena). But where, exactly, is Dalton Hunt? Dalton is now a sad shell of his former great self working a simple construction job, rooming with his paraplegic best-buddy Wyatt (Dean Cain), taking crap from his ex-wife (Shannon Lepard) and visiting his young daughter (Talise Zirilli). Five years ago during a friendly sparring session with this best-buddy of his Dalton messes him up but good. Now Dalton carries the burden of this tragedy everywhere he goes and has retired from the ring to never fight again.

Yeah, right. The leader of this MMA organization, Victoria Rualan, gloriously overplayed by Bai Ling, needs to give her business a boost and exercises a clause in Dalton’s old contract which requires him to have ‘one more fight’. Dalton isn’t happy about this but considering he’s a total loser who can’t even pay the rent for bitchy wife’s home, he has no choice.

To get Dalton prepared for this seemingly impossible task of facing The Brick is Mr. Willy (Louis Herthum), a wise and sage, yet unorthodox fight trainer. Dalton isn’t making Mr. Willy very happy because Dalton has lost ‘The Eye of the Tiger’ so to speak, but this will change. This change is due in no small part to his crippled up friend getting himself all beat up because I think we all knew that the crippled up friend was only in the movie in the first place to get beat up or killed.

It’s showdown time. Well… before showdown time it’s ‘have extended simulated sex with the ex-wife time’. Seriously, they were going at it for a while there, complete with awful background folk music. They were going at it so tough that they were making me a little uncomfortable just in case somebody might’ve walked and mistakenly thought I was watching Cinemax. With that bit graphicitudity out of the way NOW it’s Showdown Time! On one side we have a big, overconfident mean dude and on the other side we have one slightly smaller under-confident really nice dude who after two months of intense training still looks like he just fell off of skid row. Not that this is going to stop him from totally kicking that mean dudes ass.

You may notice we haven’t gotten around to mentioning Kimbo Slice, despite the fact his mug in on the box cover, mainly because Kimbo Slice was in this movie just a little bit more than I was in this movie. No need to talk about Kimbo Slice no more. While ‘Circle of Pain’ was sub par in most cinematic aspects it was better in some aspects than the ‘Tapout’ productions that preceded it. For one the narrative supporting this story was semi-lucid as compared to the completely illogical Echavarria joints we saw before this movie. Admittedly the narrative is an unholy bastardization of Rocky’s III, IV and V, but nonetheless this tale does keep its gaps in logic to a minimum. Also Heath Herring made for a really good bad guy. Maybe too good because I was kind of pulling for him in the final showdown. Yes, rooting for the bad guy in a movie like this is like rooting for the Washington Generals, but there you go.

But one reason I didn’t care for this movie as much as those other movies is this movie lacked the manic nonsensical energy that those other flicks brought to the table. Bai Ling tried her over-acting best to liven things up a bit, but overall the whole affair was a little dull. We spent most of our time in this movie watching Tony Schiena look depressed and avoid exercising. If I wanted to experience that all I have to do is look in the mirror. Where the other movies were filled to the brim with suspect fight action this one substituted this action with slow moving Rocky IV training sessions and family angst. Plus the acting in this movie, comparatively speaking, was pretty lousy outside of Louis Herthum. Mind you we’re comparing this to the other movies in this genre which is a very generous comparison all things considered. I mean the bar is low and ‘Circle of Pain’ couldn’t reach that bar. Sponsorship T-shirts and product placement was sky high however.

But there was plenty of nudity. I’ve seen enough of these movies to now know that if you can’t find a woman to get naked somewhere in your flick, you simply aren’t trying hard enough. So while ‘Circle of Pain’ wasn’t very good, wasn’t well acted and was centered around some suspect fight scenes it wasn’t without its merits, those merits being plenty of hot naked women and a bad guy who was far more appealing than the hero. Hey, it’s something.

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