Circle Of Fear (1992)- * * *
Directed by: Clark Henderson
Starring: Patrick Dollaghan, Wesley Pfenning, Joey Aresco, Joe Mari Avellana, Marilyn Bautista, Paul Holmes, Candy Courtier, and Vernon Wells
Tom Price (Dollaghan) is a certified toughguy who apparently used to work as an enforcer for the mob. After surviving all the chaos that occurred at the end of the Vietnam War, all he wants to do now is shirtlessly lounge around at his Newport Beach, California home. But he's forced to go rogue when he travels to the Philippines to investigate the death of his brother Charlie (Holmes), which, obviously, happened under very shady circumstances.
On top of that, Charlie's daughter Jocelyn (Courtier) has been kidnapped by drug-dealing thugs. The Mr. Big at the top of this ladder of criminality is Allan Bainbridge (Wells), and his number two is the gangster Joey Conti (Aresco). As Tom Price powers through Manila, taking down Bainbridge's illicit businesses and dodging their baddies as he gets closer and closer to the truth, they get more and more angry. Price also runs into underworld characters such as Miyamoto (Avellana) and Elena (Bautista) - but will Tom Price ever escape this CIRCLE OF FEAR?
Patrick Dollaghan - at least here in his role as Tom Price - looks like he could be Michael Douglas's brother. I mean, he really looks like he could be a member of the Douglas family. He also has some Asher Brauner-esque qualities. Oddly enough, he resembles his Circle of Fear co-star Vernon G. Wells, so when they're on screen together it's almost impossible to tell who's who. It's a bit like Harris Yulin and Art Garfunkel in Short Fuse (1986), or David "Shark" Fralick and Frank Zagarino in Project Eliminator (1991).
Thankfully, Dollaghan and Wells have distinctive voices. If Dollaghan didn't have that Douglas-esque rasp that sounds like at any moment he's going to say, "Greed is good", and Wells didn't have his Australian accent, it would be terribly confusing for the viewers.
Circle of Fear is a step above - but very similar to - the type of actioners Cirio Santiago was pumping out at the time. It's filled with many absurd and very entertaining action sequences, and the music by Jeff Mar keeps things rolling along. A lot of cues don't exactly match the action, but that's part of the fun.
Dollaghan, with his classy mullet and "I'm a long-lost Douglas brother" ways manages to carry the movie and keep eyeballs on the screen. One minute he's fighting Hector the punk (who wears a Beethoven jacket, has an orange mohawk, and carries a boombox next to his ear blasting hip-hop), and the next minute he's at a cockfight, the venue for which has at least three tiers of seating. They must have been very popular.
While it seems that no one really mentions Circle of Fear - apparently it's an undiscovered gem - it had a major studio release on VHS by MGM. It has one of those great, overblown plot descriptions on the back of the box, even saying that it features "mind-bending plot twists". Hmmm...well, we'll let you experience that for yourself, but you should see Circle of Fear. It's a lot of fun.
The official release year for the film is 1992. While watching it, we noticed that it seemed very 80's and we were not surprised to see a copyright date of 1988 after the end credits. That would also explain the Smash Hits-style pictures of Pet Shop Boys and Cyndi Lauper on Jocelyn’s walls. 1988 is the year director Clark Henderson directed Saigon Commandos, so maybe there's a rights issue at play here? Nevertheless, it appears Circle of Fear, despite its studio backing, didn't get a very wide release into video stores at the time.
Besides the Jeff Mar soundtrack, there are many very catchy songs included as well, each seemingly more catchy than the last. Our two favorites were "Can't Get Away" by Kristina Nichols and "One Step Closer" by Billy Martin. The former is very much in the mold of the theme song for Silk (1986), so what's not to love there?
In the end, we do recommend Circle of Fear. It delivers the goods on the 80's action front and there are plenty of positives on display. Seek it out if you can.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty