review for Circle of Iron on AllMovie

Circle of Iron (1978)
by Donald Guarisco review

As a glance at the plot synopsis should reveal, Circle of Iron is far from typical kung fu film fare. The amount of fighting is limited (and handled in a rather matter-of-fact style when it occurs), with a greater emphasis being placed on thoughtful dialogue exchanges that have a pronounced philosophical bent. Circle of Iron is not a perfect film -- Jeff Cooper is sometimes wooden in the lead role despite putting forth a strong effort, and the action isn't as impressive as it might have been had Bruce Lee (who helped write the original screenplay) still been around to choreograph it. However, Circle of Iron is still worthwhile for those who can get into its eccentric style because it is genuinely ambitious and thoughtful in a way that many kung fu-oriented films seldom are. The script is laced with many memorable bits of Zen wisdom and David Carradine turns in his most memorable screen work, tackling a quartet of different roles with wit and charisma to spare. Circle of Iron is also gorgeous to look at: it was shot on a series of stunning locations in Israel and photographer Ronnie Taylor captures them in a moody, atmospheric style that genuinely makes the film feel like a window into another world. Director Richard Moore handles the material with respect, allowing it to move at its own thoughtful pace and giving the actors room to breathe life into it (Eli Wallach's cameo is a particularly memorable bit of scene-stealing). In short, Circle of Iron is a flawed but likeably ambitious piece of work. It probably won't appease viewers used to high-octane martial arts fare but anyone who enjoyed the Kung Fu TV series is likely to appreciate this mystical, philosophy-oriented take on the genre.