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Nitro Circus: The Movie

2012 | 85 min | PG-13 | 1.85:1

Nitro Circus: The Movie


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Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 08 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

Box office




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Screenshots from Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D Blu-ray

Nitro Circus: The Movie Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 9, 2012

I’ll admit, I was completely unaware of “Nitro Circus” before I sat down to watch their debut feature -- I’m not a longtime fan, and if that bothers you, stop reading now. The gang’s MTV show, essentially employed to pick up where “Jackass” left off, roots its thrills in the tradition of Evel Knievel, insisting on the adrenaline rush of recklessness, treating the human body as a disposable vessel of comedy and pain, filming the wreckage with a range of HD equipment. Having survived three “Jackass” movies, the PG-13 “Nitro Circus” picture is a breeze to sit through, especially when the producers are more fixated on slo-mo disaster shots than naked men shoving foreign objects into their rectum. However, like its heavily bruised precursor, “Nitro Circus” is an overcooked sham, too broad to take seriously, while treating genuine injury as an opportunity to point and laugh.

If there’s a “plot” to the picture, it’s found with the “Nitro Circus” crew and their strenuous effort to build a blockbuster arena tour that “couldn’t be done,” debuting at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 2011 (never mind that the crew had already been touring with a live act for about a year before the Sin City date). For Travis Pastrana (the professional racer), Jolene Van Vugt (the lone female), Tommy Passemante (the obese, donut-gnawing one), Jim DeChamp (gullible), and Jeremy Rawle (the ringleader), along with numerous fringe players, the stakes were high, demanding the squad test out their act across the world before showtime. And by the world, I mean Maryland, Utah, and Panama, where the “Nitro Circus” brand of death-defying stunts could carry on without all of those pesky safety laws found in the litigious U.S.A.

Using the training format to work out new stunts and conquer old records, “Nitro Circus: The Movie” merges crash footage with an introduction of sorts, burning through the history of the group, who happened upon grassroots glory producing their own daredevil content, attracting the attention of cable networks when their videos fascinated a sizable fanbase, helping to monetize irresponsibility. “The Movie” is another step of promotion, publicizing the tour as some type of devil’s playground where anything could happen, even death! Perhaps, but unlikely, at least for the core members of the team, who don’t show much interest in participation, with Rawle content to oversee the stunts, while Van Vugt only attempts one offering of action. The majority of the monkey business is handled by newcomers, Pastrana (although he’s always cocooned in padding), and Passemente, whose unconvincing display of fear is used repeatedly for comedic effect.

Armed with big wheels, boats, and bikes, the team stages giant action and gamesmanship for the 3D process (about half of the film looks post-coverted), with numerous ramps built to facilitate high jumps into dirt piles and cardboard boxes. Of course, nobody’s buying a ticket to see the guys stick their landings, leaving most of the effort to slo-mo footage of wipeouts, most of them quite serious (younger audiences will undoubtedly blow off the pre-show warning discouraging stunt imitation). However, in an unexpected show of cruelty, the group rarely shows sympathy for the fallen, often berating the broken back on their feet. In the case of one rider from the Deep South, the squad all but ignores his pleas for help, eventually ditching the poor guy once the reality of a longstanding injury solidifies. How kind. The only true scene of gravity focuses on DeChamp, who nearly breaks his back when a trick goes askew. The ensuing medical melodrama doesn’t last for long, teasing a direction of harsh reality the “Nitro Circus” producers are too fearful to follow.

Also disconcerting are interviews meant to stroke the ego of the founders, emerging from unreliable sources including Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (both produce the television show), while the gang’s agent pops up to help sell the danger and rebellious attitude of the live show. Channing Tatum also slides in for a chat, though his comments are expectedly low-wattage (“Performing live is live.”), furthering the plastic marketing vibe of the entire production.

The stunts are quite amazing at times, especially an opening orgy of bikes, trucks, and dirt jumps that introduces the movie on a grand scale that’s strangely never seen again. Instead, the viewer is treated to forced, shrill backstage camaraderie from camera-aware cast members trying to make the experience seem more exciting than it truly is. It’s a page out of the “Jackass” playbook, with overemphasis and suspicious editing used to create an event out of backyard activities. I enjoy a rollicking stunt show as much as the next guy, but physical might is always more interesting with more of a purpose, preferably sold without a cast of braying investors in the background and blazing ads for Red Bull inserted into every shot.

Starring: Travis Pastrana, Jolene Van Vugt, Jim DeChamp
Directors: Gregg Godfrey, Jeremy Rawle

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