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Laramie Movie Scope:
Nitro Circus: The Movie (2012)

A series of crazy stunts

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 25, 2016 -- I've been buying some 3D bluray disks lately, so I picked this up when I saw it at a local pawn shop, not really knowing what it was. It turns out to be a collection of daredevil stunts performed by a collection of extreme sports enthusiasts. They are the latest incarnations of stunt performers like Evel Knievel and Joie Chitwood, who pioneered this kind of stunt show years ago.

Nitro Circus, led by noted motocross and rally racer Travis Pastrana, is a stunt ensemble, featuring live shows, TV shows, and this movie. This movie features a wide variety of dangerous stunts, from BASE jumping, road, water and ski jumping in a variety ways, using high speed tow ropes, tricycles, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, snowmobiles, boats, even a wheelchair and a school bus. These are launched off a wide variety of ramps. The stunt performers describe themselves as children and adolescents who never really grew up. They love what they do, despite the frequent painful injuries.

The movie is loosely organized around a number of stunts, with a storyline structure of how the stunt performers started out as children playing. There is a countdown during the movie, leading up to a major live Nitro Circus show in Las Vegas. The biggest stunt show, however, appears near the beginning of the film in a very large outdoor area with a lot of big dirt ramps. A large number of performers in cars, motorcycles and other vehicles all do a complex series of coordinated jumps. Some of the motorcycles are jumping over other vehicles passing underneath, which also do jumps of their own.

This is a spectacular, complex stunt show, filmed by camera crews mounted on mechanical lifts and helicopter camera crews shooting high speed film to show the action in slow motion. Later in the film, a motorcyclist tries what appears to be an impossible stunt, riding a motorcycle at high speed across a pool of water, over rocks, into the ocean. He crashes, but sustains only minor injuries. Incredibly, another cyclist tries the same stunt right after that, and succeeds. It turns out a motorcycle can skim on top of a body of water, for a time, if it is going fast enough. This is done more than once in this film.

This is one of several stunts said to be illegal in the United States. They are performed in the country of Panama. Another is a BASE jump from a tall building, and another is a ramp-to-ramp jump from the roof of one tall building to the roof of another. This stunt is one of several where even some of these fearless stunt performers show actual fear, but they do it anyway.

Another impressive stunt is performed by a man described in the live Las Vegas program as an “Extreme Wheelchair Athlete.” This man, Aaron Fotheringham, born with spina bifida, is shown earlier in the film having a painful crash while trying a loop stunt. In the live show in Vegas, however, he does a successful ramp-to-ramp jump, with a full back flip. One stunt involves a man driving a snowmobile across sand, then across a road, then across water, then over a ramp in a lake, where he and the vehicle fly through the air and fall into the lake.

There are also plenty of crashes in the film, including a ramp-to-ramp truck jump in which the truck is destroyed. Another crash, a deliberate one, is the result of trying to set a record for the highest number of rollovers in one crash. The most serious crash, however, is an attempt to replicate the corkscrew jump stunt from the James Bond movie “The Man With the Golden Gun” (a stunt first performed live in 1972 by race driver Jay Milligan).

The idea of the corkscrew jump is to drive off a specially constructed ramp, which causes the car to land on its wheels after at least one full spin (270 degrees) in the air. The jump in the James Bond movie was done with the aid of computer modeling due to the extreme danger of trial and error attempts. The Nitro Circus guys apparently didn't bother with computer modeling their jump. They just copied some plans off the Internet and gave it a go for this movie. The result was a serious back injury to the driver, Jim DeChamp, all caught on film.

In most movies, these kinds of extreme stunts are done with computer graphics, but this movie, and in the live Nitro Circus show, the stunts are done for real, and there is real risk and injuries. Travis Pastrana has suffered numerous injuries in his career. Erik Roner, a Nitro Circus regular, died last fall in skydiving accident during an unrelated golf tournament promotional stunt. Bruce Cook was paralyzed from the waist down during a motorcycle stunt accident. But Cook was back on a motorcycle again last year. He became the first paraplegic in history to land a motorcycle back flip, and he did it in a Nitro Circus live show last October. That's how these guys roll.

I watched this in both 2D and 3D last night. The stunts look more impressive in 3D, but there are some amazing stunts on these disks, no matter which way you watch it. This movie is sold as a set of three disks, DVD, 2D bluray and 3D bluray, all with the same material. The introduction to the film can be selected in the menu separate from the film itself, but it appears to be also attached to the main film if you select it that way in the menu. Special features include “gory outtakes” which I did not watch. This movie rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)