Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Circle of Iron

Yooooooouuuuu.... so I have been writing reviews for recently. Here is my write-up of the David Carradine picture Circle of Iron. Carradine plays four different dudes in this movie, including a guy in a horrible half-monkey/half-man costume. The film gets a lot of comparisons to Zardoz, which is especially accurate in that the bulk of both films' budgets seem to have been spent on ridic amounts of cocaine. You get the vibe that the night before shooting the writers went, "Oh geeze, we've done nothing but inhale this booger sugar for four weeks and haven't written anything! Uhh... let's make it about a dude who searches for a book or something! And then do more blow!"Not so much a vibe as a daydream, perhaps, but whatevs.

Looking like a cross between Conan the Barbarian and super-ripped Uruguayan striker Diego ForlĪ¬n, Cord (Jeff Cooper) seems more comfortable as one of the grizzled arm-wrestlers in Over the Top than as a man apparently seeking the source of ultimate knowledge. Yet as the main character in Circle of Iron he is required to synthesize these two personas, kicking ass and braving the elements in a quest for enlightenment. Or something like that. In dealing with self-discovery, Circle of Iron tackles a subject that is extremely difficult to portray cinematically. How do you show somebody who has achieved enlightenment? Do they suddenly glow? Is there hair where there was no hair before? And, apart from trying to illustrate an unseen sensation, what does enlightenment even mean? The object of Cord’s journey is murky at best, but the film does its best, for the most part, to include a nice amount of high kicks and martial arts showdowns to compensate.

A lot of Circle of Iron is pretty enjoyable, albeit in very strange ways, like when Cord meets a man in the desert played by Eli Wallach in one of those weird Orson-Welles-in- Transformers: The Movie end-of-career roles. Dude is trying to destroy his penis by slowly dissolving the bottom half of his body in a barrel of oil and he and Cord have a nice, casual conversation about castration. It’s like watching two ascetics shoot the shit after finding themselves seated next to each other on the train. When Cord remarks that the dude’s weiner is “no bigger than a pimple”, his tone is definitely one of admiration. I hope they exchanged numbers. But cool moments like this vanish once Cord starts following his blind teacher (David Carradine in one of his four roles in the movie). We get a notable absence of butt-kicking as Circle of Iron ramps up Carradine’s New Age platitudes and Pure Moods soundtrack. Once Cord makes it to the island to receive the sacred book from depressed monk Christopher Lee, I had kind of forgotten what movie I was watching.

Circle of Iron’s schizophrenia is perhaps unavoidable, as evinced by the film’s two names. Originally titled The Silent Flute, it oscillates wildly between the fantasy fighting-fest you’d expect from a movie called Circle of Iron and the schmaltzy wimp-o-rama suggested by The Silent Flute, producing an intermittently fun zensploitation picture. For the first twenty minutes or so, the film delivers the goods and has practically everything you could want in a movie: really shitty kung fu, gnarly ‘staches, killer monkeys and a path to enlightenment that apparently involves cruising for dudes in fur boots. And I should mention how horrible, if bizarrely endearing, the kung fu is; Carradine’s blind wushu is even lazier than Chris Mitchum’s in Ricco: The Mean Machine, the previous standard-holder for awful fisticuffs. But then the picture gets bogged down in a bunch of flute-y crap and the fighting ceases. What had seemed like an endlessly promising premise (a fighting tournament filled with Village People look-alikes!!!) and in the last half-hour somehow becomes a jokeless buddy picture with illusions of spiritual depth. Circle of Iron, we hardly knew ye.

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