It’s a shame Columbus Circle wasn’t better as it has a good cast and, at its core, at least an interesting premise. Although the script does them no favors, I give a pass to the cast as they seem to struggle through stilted dialogue and contrived situations, especially a finale that flies in the face of what we watched before.
Genre(s): Suspense, Thriller
Universal | PG13 – 86 min. – $26.98 | March 6, 2012
Directed by: George Gallo
Writer(s): George Gallo and Kevin Pollak
Cast: Selma Blair, Amy Smart, Kevin Pollak, Giovanni Ribisi, Beau Bridges, Jason Lee
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: NA
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C (unconfirmed)
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Note: This review does contain spoilers, although a good number of them are revealed half way through so there’s nothing major except for one which I will give an extra warning for…
Columbus Circle is the latest in the line of Hitchock-lite suspense-thrillers that have been released over the years and save for a few plot holes or, at the very least, leaps in logic; it’s not a bad little film. There were a couple things I learned from the movie: 1. upscale apartments have some of the weirdest tenants and 2. Selma Blair is still gorgeous and needs to do more films.
The movie centers on a young woman named Abigail Clayton (SELMA BLAIR), an agoraphobic who has not been outside of her apartment in over a decade. Her childhood was hell with an alcoholic and abusive, but rich, father (he had passed away a few years back). After her parents die, she inherits hundreds of millions of dollars and decides to disappear from society completely, changing her name with the tabloid media still speculating on her whereabouts today. There’s only one person who she trusts (danger Will Robinson, danger!), Ray Fontaine (BEAU BRIDGES), a former partner of her father’s and somebody she counts on for support.
Abigail’s safe little world begins to crumble when her elderly neighbor across the street is murdered and although it’s made to look like an accidental fall down the stairs, Detective Frank Giardello (GIOVANNI RIBISI) believes otherwise. Per standard protocol, he interviews Abigail to find out if she saw or heard anything but the conversation is, at best, one sided as she’s quite uncomfortable with him being in her home.
Meanwhile, even before her neighbor’s body is cold, she inquires about possibly renting that apartment as well so she can have even more comfort without having to deal with new neighbors (note: marrying a sheik, she’s worth into the hundreds of millions). Her letter apparently does nothing to persuade whoever was in charge because two weeks after the incident, a real estate agent is showing young couple Charles Stanford (JASON LEE) and Lillian Hart (AMY SMART) the apartment.
The couple seems nice enough but one night Charles is drunk and starts beating on Lillian. This triggers painful memories for Abigail as she too was abused as a child and finds a connection with Lillian. So, she gets out of her comfort zone and as Lillian is battered and bruised in the hallway, Abigail brings Lillian into her apartment before Charlie can come back to do more abuse.
Not everything is at it seems and about half-way through, the first twist is revealed: the whole abuse situation was just a ruse to get Lillian to befriend Abby. See, they know who she is and are after her vast fortune knowing they can get away with it since Abby doesn’t even really exist and nobody really knows who she is. Their first task is, while Lillian tries to get Abby to overcome her Agoraphobia by taking her into the hallway, Charlie, acting drunk, gets into Abby’s apartment and installs a virus onto her computer that will grab any passwords she enters which would allow them access into her bank account.
Charlie succeeds and Abby is none the wiser, though the incident pushes her back into her emotional turmoil and she kicks Lillian out of her life completely. Now all the couple has to do is be patient and Abby’s fortunes will be theirs. Unfortunately, the building manager named Joseph Klandermann (KEVIN POLLAK) who takes care of any of the tenants needs including getting any supplies for Abby she requests via notes slid under the door. Well, old Klandermann just so happens to know Charlie… from jail and know something’s up. Chaos ensues but will Charlie and Lillian get the money or will Abigail find out just in the nick of time?
Major Spoiler Territory!
Plot/character inconsistencies aside, I actually quite enjoyed Columbus Circle, albeit with an 80-minute running time (without credits), it does come across as an episode of “CSI: NY”, just with more perspective on the victim/suspect than the detective work. In any case, it’s a brisk thriller to get through and on that front, I found it at the very least watchable if not in the end a tad forgettable.
With regards to the cast, I’ll give some kudos to Selma Blair who has been mostly MIA tackling smaller projects (like this) and while I can’t say her performance here is anything exceptional it’s hard for me to see her do any better with an overwrought script that I can’t imagine an Oscar-winning actress being able to pull off.
The supporting cast also does well enough (all things considered). Jason Lee and Giovanni Ribisi are sadly underused but I would assume they did this for scale (the pair also served as executive producers) so for their limited parts, Ribisi especially, they were at least effective. Similarly, Kevin Pollak, who co-wrote the screenplay and was a co-producer, gives a good enough performance. For her part, Amy Smart shows off a bit more darker side and I guess well enough for what she was given. She’s set up as a good adversary to Blair and although this is hardly her best performance, she provides the right amount of presence to pull off the limited role.
Co-written and directed by George Gallo (Middle Men), Columbus Circle should’ve and could’ve been so much better and while the screenplay does fail big time in terms of logic and wasting the talents of an otherwise talented cast, I have to admit that it’s at least an enjoyable film to watch on a slow Saturday afternoon. Despite its flaws, I’d give this a soft rental recommendation, but even then keep your expectations in check).
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0/5
Unfortunately, other than some previews (Rosewood Lane, Cat Run, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Killer Elite), no features were included…
VIDEO – 3.75/5
Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases Columbus Circle on Blu-ray with a good looking 1080p high-def transfer. The movie is presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and although I’d hardly call it eye-popping brilliant, it’s still well detailed with good black levels throughout. The color array is also well balanced without looking oversaturated.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is OK with some heavy bass through the generic thriller opening credits otherwise the rest of the movie is mainly dialogue driven which makes more use of the center channel than any of the others. There is some ambient noise, including yelling and screaming, that occurs off-screen that comes through the front and rear speakers, however.
OVERALL – 2.25/5
Overall, it’s a shame Columbus Circle wasn’t better as it has a good cast and, at its core, at least an interesting premise. Although the script does them no favors, I give a pass to the cast as they seem to struggle through stilted dialogue and contrived situations, especially a finale that flies in the face of what we watched before. Even so, I found this to be passable entertainment and enough for a quick watch on a weekend where there’s nothing else on.