Circles of Deceit

Circles of Deceit

On DVD: 
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dennis Waterman stars as John Neil, a reluctant operative who spends most of his days in his hideaway home, trying his best to ignore the world. Britain’s security service on the other hand looks to him as their go to guy for everything spy related and often contacts him to be placed back in the picture. The four episode release covers John Neil’s adventures from infiltrating the IRA in The Wolves Are Howling to investigating the murder of another spy who has just returned home from the Persian Gulf in Kalon. Each episode is rich with guest stars and run feature length run times to give you as much mystery and bang for your buck as can be crammed into each individual episode.

First off it was almost impossible for me to keep from being distracted by Dennis Waterman’s look. In the first episode he is clean shaven and is a drop dead ringer for a younger Rip Torn and when he goes stubbly in the second episode he looks amazingly like a kick ass version of Conan O’Brien. Once you get passed this distraction you find that the show, as great as it may have been in its time, is dated in its plot era importance. If you weren’t born before, during, or closely after the Cold War the show probably won’t mean much to you. Its more of an intellectual men’s soap opera that moves slowly and somewhat methodically punching holes in its path as it goes and leaving them to be forgotten. Its tragic as well that not every episode ends satisfactorily. The Wolves Are Howling had a decent lead up introducing John Neil as a man tortured by his past, his wife and son were killed by the IRA as he was driving to meet them at a circus, and whose job it is to infiltrate the IRA in his first case back. Revenge plot anyone or is there something more? While the episode ends with a powerful message about what keeps the blood warm in the terrorism racket it also does so in a way that betrays the episodes building arc between Neil and Neil’s relationship with a women he meets and begins to court who is, by all means, collateral damage for the sake of his investigation.

Biggest nitpicks for me while forcing myself to not give up on the show? For starters, like I said, it’s a soap opera for men. Not one episode happens to go by without Neil being romantically involved with a woman who just happens to be tied into whatever case he’s working on. When we meet said woman she turns ever so slowly and blinks her eyes really big for the camera and smiles. Its completely posed and transparently meant to bring the beauty of his companions to light. Baddies? They also get the same treatment. My favorite posed moment was during Kalon in which the foreign bad guy rises from his car and slowly turns to the camera, looks up into the corner of the screen in a slightly upwards shot (for no apparent reason), then turns slowly and walks off camera. I’ve never been a fan of the slow motion walk complete with explosion in the background but after seeing this show you can kind of see how those cheesy shots evolved. Then there were the usual bits of guns with never ending bullets, moments of poor acting and weak writing for the sake of keeping the plot moving along, and of course Waterman’s John Neil, the infallible hero everyman hero type with a  tortured soul. Its all written for dramatics and in this day and age of high speed adrenaline fueled shows and films Circles of Deceit simply falls short.

Bonus features are the usual for Acorn releases. You’ve got your cast bibliographies in a text based form and subtitles, which are very useful at times. Not to much to get excited about but it is the first time the four episodes will have been placed on DVD so I guess that’s a big draw for fans of the series. As always final judgment is yours. Enjoy.

AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook