ATOMIK CIRCUS (2004)
AKA LE RETOUR DE JAMES BATAILLE
Directed by Didier Poiraud & Thierry Poiraud
Written by Jean-Phillippe Dugand, Marie Garrel Weiss, Didier Poiraud, Thierry Poiraud, Vincent Tavier
Starring Vanessa Pradis, Jason Flemyng, Benoit Poelvoorde, Jean Pierre Marielle
ATOMIK CIRCUS also known as THE RETURN OF JAMES BATTLE is a French film full of kineticism unlike any random handful of Hollywood films. Set in a shanty village with overflowing marshes and sky skimming trees, the story of an alien invasion taking place during an annual beef festival is one I won’t soon forget. ATOMIK CIRCUS overflows with comedic and quirky characters, much like the Caro/Jeunet DELICATESSEN, but instead of cannibalistic landlords, the cast has to fear alien crafts much more reminiscent of last year’s surprise hit MONSTERS.
One of the highlights of this film is the talented cast. Though he starred in Romero’s BRUISER and had some prominent roles here and there in LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Jason Flemyng seems to be doing a lot of background roles (most recently as the silent teleporter Azazel in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS). Here he’s given the spotlight to shine as the leading man, sent to prison for trying to impress his girlfriend then breaking out to be reunited with her. Though this is very much an ensemble cast, Flemyng’s portrayal of James is one of the lynchpins of the film. Vanessa Paradis is another reason for checking this one out, simply for seeing her rock out on stage. There’s something about a small French woman cutesy-ing out a rock song and bopping around stage that makes me all warm and tingly. Here she is the object of everyone’s eye. Finally, rounding out the cast is Benoit Poelvoorde who some will recognize from MAN BITES DOG, others who don’t recognize him obviously haven’t seen that harrowing film. Here Poelvoorde chews the scenery as an agent with less than noble intentions for the leading lady. The rest of the cast is filled with colorful characters ranging from shotgun toting hillbillies to creeps who use their dog as a musical instrument by pinching it (at least, I hope that’s what he’s doing to the dog to make it scream like that…the dog is a puppet, BTW).
Though the film kind of jumps the rails toward the end when all hell breaks loose and the aliens attack, the build-up and the attention to extremely interesting characters makes the film a joy to watch. The locale; a swampy land filled with high trees and deep marshes makes the setting for this invasion unique as well. But fear not, gorehounds, there’s plenty of grue to satisfy your hunger for the red stuff. ATOMIK CIRCUS is one of those films where the folks behind it put the pedal to the metal with not a care for rules and convention; making it a film that is unlike most out there.