Bruno (Conley) is a sadistic criminal. Leo (Hannah) is a con man and Lily (Janssen) is his wife. Everything else is open to debate in this twisty gangster film.
Circus opens with a scene of loveable variety entertainer Brian Conley torturing loveable variety entertainer Christopher Biggins. Only Conley is in fact kingpin Brighton crime boss Bruno Maitland and snivelling Biggins is his no good accountant. Find that funny or convincing, then Circus is your sort of film. Find it crass and embarrassing, well then you're in for a long hour and a half of viewing time.
How you feel about those first few minutes will colour your attitude towards the whole film. This is a movie, after all, that features various comics in several key roles. Apart from Biggins and Conley (to be fair, convincingly vicious), there's Izzard's Shylock figure (to be fair, not convincingly vicious) with Game On's Neil Stuke playing his sidekick. But before the whole thing gets overladen with British comics turned actors, almost-stars Hannah (who next picked up a $1 million paycheque for The Mummy 2) and Janssen (who then went to the big time in X-Men) turn up as the leads. Therein lies another problem. The chemistry between the pair is supposed to be scorching, so much so that the audience has to believe they will do anything for each other. Not only is that lacking, it's hard to imagine that the two would spend time talking to each other, let alone plotting the biggest scam of all time.
Those assumptions aside, Circus' other selling point seems to be its multiple twist-packed plot. However, the effectiveness of this depends on how many similar films you've seen. Go in blind and it could just win you over. Screenwriter David Logan has used his home town of Brighton in East Sussex as an effective setting and given that this script sparked a bidding war in the US, it might just be that the big screen realisation of the film has sold him short. Or maybe it's just a matter of a taste.
Uneven in tone and boasting some truly unconvincing performances, this has one too many twists for its own good.