Title : Marshall's Circus
Budget : 75 Million
Category : Original Concept
Genre : Drama/Twisted
Running Time : 163 Minutes
Rating : PG-13
Director : Robert Altman
Writer : David McKenna
Composer/Soundtrack : Patrick Doyle
Liam Aiken - Francis Macker
Michael Clarke Duncan - Aidan Rich
Danny Devito - Johnnie Jenkins
Jude Law - Robbie Cane
Sam Neill - Ned Macker
Connie Neilsen - Mary Macker
Summer Glau - Angela Black
Kate Winslet - Becky Milot
Anthony Hopkins - Marshall
Plot Summary :
The Mackers, Ned and Mary with their 11-year-old son Francis, live in a poor village several miles away from the nearest town, where the factory is that provides all the jobs. Every adult male in the town and the surrounding villages works at the coal mine, creating a very bleak outlook on life. One day, on the 4-mile walk home from work, Ned notices a poster advertising the coming to the town of a circus, Marshall's Circus. Known for their stunts, musicians, dancers and complete atmosphere, the Circus' arrival is a huge occassion, and Ned promises he'll take Francis. He saves up for a month, and even then, can only afford one ticket. He buys it for Francis, and promises to wait beside a tree just outside the main entrance.
The circus itself is twisted and rather dark. There's the main ring area, rather wide and carved into a '3/4 circle' (semi-circle gone on farther at the two sides), with a stage taking up the other 1/4, with a Piano in one corner of it. At the back of the stage is a giant wall with paintings of various twisted clowns and animals on it. Behind the stage and painting is the backstage area, with changerooms, cages for a lion and tiger, monkeys, etc and all the props. The circus act itself is rather odd and off-beat, with the circus leader Jenkins stringing it all together. In between acts, there's a song played by the always-cigarette-smoking, sleeping-with-the-dancers boozehound Robbie Cane and the two dancers, Angela Black and Becky Milot. Aidan Rich is Jenkins' assistant, and the only black man with the Circus.
Towards the end of the show, with half the crowd loving it and half the crowd rather perplexed (Francis a mix of both), Jenkins brings out the lion when all hell breaks loose. The lion gets loose in the crowd and bites the head off one crowd member who was especially loud with his displeasure at the show. The crowd scrambles, and Francis gets easily lost and confused in the mayhem. Rich comes in and picks him up, saving him from getting trampled. They go out to see if Ned is outside, and he's not, so Rich takes him back in where they settle down as the circus packs up quickly. Francis gets dragged with the circus against his will, since Rich believes his dad was killed and takes him on.
Cane is a chain-smokin jerk who is always sleeping with the two dancers, fondling them, etc...Angela is a royal ***** to Francis, as she's trying to get more of Cane's attention...Becky is nice, if dismissive, to Francis, and is pretty much his only friendly face next to Aidan. Jenkins ignores Francis practically the whole time, only saying "yeah, whatever" to bringing him along. Marshall, no one ever talks to or meets except Jenkins. The various clowns, supporting actors, etc barely acknowledge Francis, though it all seems quite scary to him, which is how the film's shot.
The rest of the movie involves them travelling from city to city, various shows, etc with Francis watching and becoming more engrossed in an innocent way, gradually forgetting about what happened, though still not happy really. Towards the end of the circus part, Aidan tells Francis of 'the Paradise City', a city with millions of people, with avenues that stretch for miles, skyscrapers touching the sky, etc. It's the final show of their tour, and towards the end, some of the side actors take Francis away from his customary watching spot backstage, pushing him nearer the exits. Aidan sees this and rushes to help, shoving and punching the actors away. Marshall himself comes out and orders more of his men to rush them out, until Aidan picks up Francis and dashes for the exit. They run and run, then walk, until they're out in the country. Eventually, Francis is taken back home by Aidan, where he sees that his dad is still alive, and worried as all hell along with his mother. They treat Aidan with utter contempt, however, since he's black, and the closing shot of the movie is Aidan walking out of the garden, and up the road, going over the hill as the sun rises.
Russell Crowe - Harold Baxter, a former top-notch surgeon, whose life goes on a sharp decline after the death of his son.
Edward Burns - Derek Smythe, a cop on the hunt of Harold Baxter, dealing with his own issues.
Andy Garcia - Crime boss Maxwell, who hires Harold Baxter for a new portion of his crime empire.
Steve Buscemi - Danny Zacconi, one of Maxwell's top guys.
Rory Culkin - Michael Wilson, the son of Derek Smythe, although, he doesn't have much contact with his father.
Terrence Dashon Howard - Police chief, Derek's boss.
Budget: $80 million
Source: Original material
Runtime: 130 minutes
Harold Baxter was once on one of the top surgeons in Chicago. Respected by his peers, and living a very comfortable life, however, despite appearing to have a happy home life, things were never perfect for him. He was distant from his family, who he cared for, but never really made a priority in his life. His son, battling constant depression through a feeling of isolation and neglect kills himself. Things spiral out of control very quickly for Harold, as he turns to alcohol at first, and then to drugs to battle the pain. His marriage ends shortly afterwards, and his substance abuse quickly ends his medical career. His addiction has killed his former life, and we find him today, getting evicted from his run-down apartment, with only a few token items from his former life to his name. At this low point, his interest is still on finding another hit, which is the point that Maxwell enters his life with a new career opportunity.
Baxter's spiral has been closely followed by Maxwell (Andy Garcia), who is looking to launch a new line to his crime empire; black market organ harvesting. The only thing he needs, is a top notch surgeon who has nothing left to lose. Harry, almost fully at the control of his addiction, does manage one restriction, he will not become a killer. A compromise is struck, and Harry begins slicing up unconcious victims, leaving them in a bath tub next to a phone to call for help once they awaken. The victims are usually partiers who end up taking strange drinks/drugs at a party, and wake up a horrific reality. The whole operation is overseen by one of Maxwell's deputies, Danny Zaconni (Steve Buscemi), who's job is to get the victims lined up, and to oversee Baxter's work.
On his trail is a Investigator Derek Smythe (Burns), fighting some of his own demons. He has a son, Michael, from a relationship when he was only 18. He left the mother to raise the child on her own, throwing some money their way occassionally. He originally tried to maintain some relationship, but the child grew to have a great deal of hostility towards his abandoned father, and now, contact is kept at a minimum. Derek has a growing alcohol problem, due to the stresses of his job, which he takes very seriously, and the guilt over the relationship with his son, now 16 years old. Things get worse when he gets a call from the mother, who informs him that Michael's behaviour has been getting very erratic, she think he's doing drugs. He won't talk to her anymore, which is why she has gone to Derek for help, who she has never consulted for parenting matters.
Smythe carries a lot of passion for his work, but it's a double edged sword. He's very hate-filled, and his passion comes from a desire to put a stop to the criminal element. Despite learning of the complex past of Baxter, he doesn't share any sympathy for him. He receives a lot of warning from his boss (Howard), warning him to take it easy, and to not get to caught up in the case.
Back to Baxter, as his part in Maxwell's empire continues. Under the watchful eye of Zaconni , Baxter continues his work. A shell of his former self, his only concern is his next fix, and soon, he becomes nearly numb to his actions. Part of him still feels remorse, but doesn't feel strong enough to stop himself. There is some concern by Zaconni that he is becoming more erratic though, and after a couple of botched jobs, concern grows. Maxwell decides to show up for the next job, to get a first hand look, and to decide if it's worth looking for another doctor, and getting rid of Baxter.
Back to Smythe, who, in an attempt to find out what is wrong with Michael, decides to have his partner tail him, so as to remain anonymous. He tails him to a party, where he sits outside, takes some photographs to get some information on the people. He decides to run some of the plates to see if any of them belong to people with criminal records. Because real case matters are taking priority, the plates aren't run right away. When they do, it's quickly discovered that one of the cars is linked towards the Maxwell investigation. Unfortunately, it's too late, as the car has already left. A bust of the party reveals that Michael is missing, and the worst case scenario is assumed. The cops get to work, trying to figure out what known locations in the area that Maxwell is linked to, to figure out where they may have taken him
Cut to Baxter, with his latest victim in front of him, the young Michael. He is reminded of his own son, and the normally steady hands of the surgeon begin shaking. Zaconni takes notice, and reaches for his gun, feeling that a surgeon with the shakes is of no use to them, before he can though, in a sudden moment of clarity, Barrister rams the scalpel into his jugular. Maxwell goes to kill him, but is shot, as Smythe enters the scene. A stray shot is still fired off though from Maxwell's gun, and pierces the shoulder of Michael.
After Maxwell is shot, Smtyhe and partner rush in, and Smythe runs in to check on his now severely bleeding son. He tries to address the wound, but is clearly out of his element. HIs partner still has his gun aimed toward Baxter. Who moves towards Michael to try and fix the wound. Smythe grabs his gun, and warns him to not touch him. Baxter pleands to him, to let him help, and moves towards him again, and Smythe shoots him in the chest, repeatedly. He tries to revive his son, while his partner calls for help. Paramedics arrive, but are too late to do anything, and his son dies. Smythe, with the death of his son on his concious, now faces the prospect of his own downward spiral.
I think we may have unintentionally picked a bad week to start the releases -- I didn't really realize it until it started, but I believe this was the first week back to class for a lot of people.
Well I think we'll have an extended release period this time, as with the Leafs Fantasy Draft, and back to school for myself, I will be having trouble putting out another few releases until next weekend.
I thought I'd go back and review the films I've missed. I'm not sure if this is officially dead or not, but, I wanted to review GoM's films, which I haven't gotten to.
Cerebral - A very interesting concept, and, it has two West Wing cast members, to help entice me. Problem is, they aren't that strong of a draw, and there isn't much else to the film to make me go see it in theatres. I like Jude Law, but he's diluted himself with all the movies he's put out recently, so, I'm not likely to go see a movie based on his involvement. It sounds extremely interesting though, and I'd probably see it as a rental.
Marshall's Circus - I really had a tough time visualizing this one. I think the fact that you had the genre listed as "twisted" says it all. I really don't think Altman's the one to direct this, as I think you need to have a distinct visual style, and I don't think Altman's the one to deliver it. Much of the film seems to be involve travelling with the circus, with no real plot developing, outside the adjustment of the main character. I'd be a little worried about that keeping my interest. I think I'd probably end up seeing this as a TV viewing.