** Contains Spoilers **
How’s this for an original premise? A hyper-intelligent serial killer murders his guards and breaks out of a high-security mental facility. On his trail are a hotshot female FBI agent who likes to do things by the book, and a crotchety old homicide detective who operates by gut instinct. At first the lawmen clash, but they soon develop a grudging respect for one another and agree to work together to catch the killer. Said killer, meanwhile, is making his way back to his childhood home, which is inexplicably populated by perky, nymphomaniacal young people, just ripe for carving...
To say CIRCLE is clichéd is an understatement. I’d go as far as to say it doesn’t boast a single original concept, character or line of dialogue. It’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS meets HALLOWEEN, by way of every crime/slasher flick you’ve ever seen. It’s also astonishingly tedious. If you’re going to steal, at least steal the interesting bits. It takes an hour for anything to happen, and when the killings do finally start and the cops eventually stop chasing their tails the action is brief, bloodless and entirely disappointing. Talk about an anticlimax.
Bad as all this is, by far the worst thing is the killer, Bennett, played by Silas Weir Mitchell. Mitchell is fine (as his turn as bug-eyed, batshit-crazy Patoshik in PRISON BREAK attests, he does nuts very well), despite the fact that he gets surprisingly little screen time. What isn’t fine is the constant hyperbole associated with his character. Clearly director Michael W. Watkins isn’t familiar with the maxim ‘show, don’t tell.’ Instead of letting the killer’s actions delineate his character, we’re constantly being told what a genius he is, a criminal mastermind unparalleled in the annals of infamy. At one point he’s even compared to God. The only evidence of this apparent superhuman intelligence are the crude crayon scribbles that adorn the walls of his cell (which are afforded the kind of significance usually reserved for ancient religious texts, despite the fact that they look like a child drew them), and some incomprehensible nonsense about Pythagoras and number harmonics, which suggests (without explaining how) that Bennett has unlocked the secrets of the universe and can see the human soul. This is all very well, but the Bennett we see onscreen is nothing but a borderline-backwards Michael Myers rip-off, who pops up at the end to attempt a botched massacre. Simply insisting that black is white doesn’t make it so.
CIRCLE is improbable (who would give a group of oversexed, irresponsible teenagers permission to take over their house for a weekend, simply because they’re researching the psychopath who used to live there?), derivative and almost painfully slow. It deals exclusively in clichés and has nothing new or interesting to add to the genre.