Pass The Dr. Thunder: The Circuit

In these tough economic times we must be prudent and confine ourselves to a strict budget. That’s why, although we may have certain moral objections, we may find ourselves stalking the soulless, fluorescent-lit aisles of Wal-Mart; and while there, we may stop ourselves from purchasing that 32 oz. bottle of crisp, refreshing Dr. Pepper and instead reaching for a bottle of tepid, uninspiring Sam’s Choice Dr. Thunder.

"Consider yourself forewarned, Mr. Grunier: while you’re sleeping I may sneak into your hotel room, rend open your chest with my bare quivering hands and consume your still-beating heart. I apologize - this is a compulsion I cannot control."

By the same token, if you’re a producer who’s assembling an exhilarant action package tailor-made for the talents of one Jean-Claude Van Damme but budgets are tight, you may find yourself casting the Sam’s Choice equivalent of Monsieur Van Damme: Olivier Gruner.

The Circuit (2002) ups the ante, by not only starring the budget-line JCVD, but by also lifting the plot from his classic 1988 effort, Bloodsport. Olivier stars as the improbably named Dirk Longstreet (nom de porn?) former "Eastern Seaboard Champion" of an illegal underground fighting society. Dirk’s since gone straight, as a track coach at Generic Local College State University Polytech A&M - but alas, T-R-O-U-B-L-E has a habit of finding the harried French Shotokan Master.

"My brother scores a cameo in the new Rocky movie and I can only swing a role in this PIECE OF SHHHIIIIIIIIITTT!!!"

See, his little brother Jeremy (Ilya Melnikoff) has gotten himself in gambling debt to some pretty rough customers and the only way to pay off his debt is compete in the Circuit, a deadly underground fight club. Now the only way to get his brother out is for Dirk to fight! Thank Satan the living corpse of Billy Drago is there to help him freshen up his kill skills.

Yes, this plot is as well-worn and toothless as meth-addicted Atlantic City boardwalk whore and no, director Jalal Merhi does little to inject it with any fresh ideas or compelling twists. It’s further dogged by glacial pacing and bland fight choreography, in spite of including several of your favorite fighting stars you’ve only sweated over in the pages of Black Belt Magazine including, but scarcely limited to, the Dragon Twins and Billy Blanks’ brother!

Laverne Montoya as Circuit Audience Member 37: Ms. Montoya gives by the far, the standout performance of the entire film.

Apparently, The Circuit made the prerequisite $235 in profit that merits a sequel in the Direct-To-DVD world, as it was immediately followed by The Circuit 2: The Final Punch later that very same year. This film has the habit of popping up on cable every once in while - and if you should see it in your program guide, avoid it like a charging Ebola-infected rhinoceros during mating season.


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